Digital Cult: Is Online Dating Making You Socially Awkward?

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Perspectives in Digital Literacy

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Perspectives_in_Digital_Literacy

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Introduction

Welcome to Perspectives in Digital Literacy! The goal of this book is to encourage critical reading and thinking of the origins, evolution, and underlying values of the Internet and the World Wide Web so that readers may reflect on the consequences of such values to their selves and their society.

As the collection grows, we hope to label each lesson based on the specific characteristics of its target audience (right now we are thinking of age, but we are open to other classifications). This means that there could be more than one lesson for a specific topic, if the lesson is clearly targeted for different audiences.

Since Perspectives in Digital Literacy was set up as a school project, the majority of its contributors will be students exploring how they wish to "teach" others a specific topic they studied while taking a composition class; nevertheless, we welcome all contributors who wish to offer a reflection on a notable topic about issues of the Net and Web.

Below you will find some ideas of how to create a simple lesson for your text(s) of choice. If you wish to suggest ideas for lessons, leave a note on the page of this introduction, or on my Talk page.

Dr. X
February 9, 2021

How can I create a lesson for my favorite text(s)?[edit | edit source]

The way you create your chapter will depend on your target audience and what you want them to focus on when thinking of the text(s). Here is a list of typical information that helps a reader understand a text and reflect on its purpose and significance:

  • Epigraph: a short quotation or saying (may be more than one) at the beginning of the chapter that suggests its themes or concerns.
  • Context: the circumstances that frame a text and provide resources for its appropriate interpretation. In other words, the historical, cultural, and/or textual situation in which the text was created, perhaps including relevant biographical information about the text's creator(s).
  • Summary: an account of the main points of a text. Summaries are useful if the text is long or complex.
  • Quotes: a selection of passages from a text that reflect some particularly important idea that cannot be paraphrased. Quotes are useful if you want to attract the reader's attention to specific moments in the text or to the way language is being used. It is especially useful when combined with close reading questions (see below).
  • Images, sound, and/ or video to illustrate or explain a concept, theme, and/or purpose in a non-textual manner.[1]
  • Textual analysis: an examination of the elements and structure of a text to explain it, explain its importance, and its relationship to other texts or to the larger culture.
  • Notes: a short comment on or explanation of a word or passage in a text; an annotation.[2]
  • Glossary: an alphabetical list of words found in the text with explanations; a brief dictionary. It is particularly useful if your text uses words in a language other than English.
  • References/Works Cited: a list of sources of information used in the chapter or sections of it.

If you want your reader to engage with the text(s), you may try adding a few of the following sections:

  • Comprehension questions: questions intended to help readers process and understand the information they are reading.[3] These questions usually have right and wrong answers; if so, you may want to include the correct answers in a separate section.
  • Close reading questions: questions intended to help readers to "micro-read"[4] selected segments and/or aspects of the text(s) such as their structural elements, rhetorical features, and cultural and historical allusions.
  • Critical thinking questions: questions intended to have the reader reflect or inquire, such as open-ended questions, (re)search questions, comparison questions, problem-solving questions, connecting questions, and meta-cognitive questions about the text(s).
  • Further reading: a usually chronological or alphabetical list of texts which a reader may consult for additional and more detailed coverage of the topic or themes of the text(s). It may include brief annotations.
  • Extension activities: Ask the reader to create something connected to the text, like writing a poem or putting together a collage or a video in response to it, or writing a sequel or a different ending to the story. Or have the reader conduct a search, a survey, or an interview on a topic connected to the story. If you want them to have lots of fun, try some of the extension activities recommended by teacher Marilyn Pryle.
  • Games: Create a crossword puzzle using key vocabulary from your text. Or put together a Jeopardy! interactive game using a free template from JeopardyLabs. Or choose one of the four game styles offered at Trivia Maker.

Notes

  1. Media for Wikibook chapters must come from Wikimedia Commons.
  2. This is a note. For more examples of what Notes do, see this use of notes in Shakespearean sonnets and for Shakespeare's play Macbeth.
  3. "Catalog of question types | Reading comprehension." Khan Academy
  4. "Close and Critical Reading."



What is Digital Literacy?

Digital Literacy: “[t]he capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.” --Mike Ribble, "Passport to Digital Citizenship."

Is the Internet the same as the World-Wide-Web? How does the online world work and how has it changed? What are some useful, proper, and safe ways to navigate it? What is my role in it?

This book intends to help you become better educated about the Internet and the World-Wide-Web. Thus our definition of “digital literacy” includes the capacity to decipher online media, how to behave and communicate properly in online environments, and how to manipulate online tools to create content on the Web.



The Great Awakening

Very few people know how to protect themselves from the corrosive influences that surround them.

Fortunate is the person that during their adolescence years doesn't give up on education.

- Orison Swett Marden.

One of the most controversial and influential conspiracy theories of 21st Century America is QAnon. At its core is the belief that a worldwide shadow government of the elite secretly runs the world; its members have been variously accused of following Satan, of cannibalism, of running a child sex trafficking ring, and, more recently, of creating and deploying the coronavirus. This "deep state" cabal manipulates the public, democratically-elected state with the help of the mainstream media and Hollywood. Because the majority of those who believe in QAnon conspiracy theory may be categorized as politically far-right, they see the election of President Donald J. Trump as marking the beginning of a behind-the-scenes battle against this secret cabal, which, in turn, plotted to remove him from office and is now blocking his return. QAnon followers are kept in the know about this battle through cryptic coded postings on the Web by a supposed government agent who signs the messages with "Q-Clearance Patriot," which is meant to indicate the poster has Q security clearance, that is, top-level security clearance in the U.S. Department of Energy. Q's revelations will lead to a "Great Awakening" and to the ultimate event of this battle between the forces of good and evil, "the Storm," when the cabal will be defeated and the truth revealed to all. [1][2]

As a Q follower reveals to filmmakers Bayam Nooman and Mary Clements during an interview for their documentary QAnon 101: The Search for Q, Q's communications have all the characteristics of a psychological operation (psy-op), that is, "a military-led strategy to influence a population’s emotions, motives, and objective reasoning."[1][3] By using a "gamified model" that requires readers (known as Anons) to follow clues and conduct research to decode their meaning, Q's postings engrosses its audience. The Anons' hard work is then rewarded by the top-security insider information supposedly obtained, which further encourages their buy in. Since the goal of a psy-op is to undermine an adversary's ability to command and control its military operations,[4] the process of decoding Q's messages is seen by QAnons as a means of liberation from the lies and propaganda by a corrupt establishment.
"Q Shaman" January 6, 2021

The Consequences of QAnon: Division and Chaos[edit | edit source]

On January 6, 2021, the United States suffered an attack on the Capitol, where members of Congress were meeting to confirm the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Some of the attackers were QAnon followers who believed in President Trump's affirmation that the election had been stolen from him. That day many QAnon supporters were expecting to get more instructions from Trump to finally bring the secret shadow government to justice and allow him to rule for the next four years as he deserved. Inflamed by the president’s rhetoric, they forced their way into the capitol to “stop the steal,” threatening our democracy and causing the death of five people.[5]

This was not the first time that individuals who believed in the reality of a “deep state” cabal had taken matters into their own hands. In 2016, Edgar Welch, a man from North Carolina armed himself and went to self-investigate conspiracy theory allegations that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of Comet Pong, a pizza restaurant located in Washington D.C. After finding that no children were being held in the pizza place, he surrendered to the police.[1] A second example happened in in 2019, when Anthony Comello, a Staten Island man, fatally shot the Mafia boss Frank Cali because he believed he was a member of the deep state. That was when the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terror threat. [6]

Even after President's Joe Biden victory was confirmed, the QAnon movement did not stop its spread of false assertions, the latest of which concerns the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory refuse to get vaccinated because they think that the government’s “elite” wants to control humanity and that the COVID-19 virus was developed to reduce the population. The fact that some of those vaccinated have suffered complications has given more credibility to these false assertions, creating fear between American communities, preventing people from getting the vaccine, and slowing the process to end to the pandemic. [7]

How Do Conspiracy Theories Interfere With Our Commonsense Reasoning?[edit | edit source]

Conspiracy theories have always been with us. However, in recent years we have seen a dramatic rise in their influence on politics thanks to social media. While in its most basic form social media helps us express freely, instantly, and globally, the repetition of ideas via "likes" and "re-posts" gives power to irrational and harmful beliefs that only end up destroying commonsense reasoning and may end up creating an unstable and dangerous society.

"Conspiracy theories arise in the context of fear, anxiety, mistrust, uncertainty, and feeling of powerless," explains John Ehrenreich when reporting on the phenomenon for Slate magazine. People who present anxiety, stress, and a need for control over the environment are more susceptible to believing in conspiracies because they are frequently suspicious and distrustful, easily believing that others are plotting against them. They find relief in theories that explain their feelings and concerns, which offers them a safe environment. Conspiracy theories also fill psychological and ideological needs as individuals are more likely to pay attention to and believe information that validates their existing beliefs. This is referred to as “confirmation bias” by psychologists. Here, again, is where technology tips the scales: because the algorithms on which social media platforms are built tend to give us more of what we have indicated that we like, we may get our biases confirmed as “facts” when we interact with others who share our opinions through social media.[8]

Americans and News Consumption[edit | edit source]

Americans rely on their news from social platforms

The frightful way Americans are consuming their news nowadays is one of the main reasons they are often falling for the misinformation shared on the Web, as shown on a survey analysis by the Pew Research Center. About 18% of adults confirmed getting their political and election news from social platforms, and about 25% from news websites and apps. According to the survey, only 8% of these adults followed the 2020 election “very closely.” The lack of attention leads to insufficient knowledge for which users who rely on social media to get their news are less likely to get the facts and more likely to hear unproven claims.[9]

Based on the Pew Research Center Survey [9]
Source Percentage % Source Percentage % Source Percentage %
News Websites/ Apps 25% Cable Tv 16% Print 3%
Social Media 18% Network 13% No Answer 1%
Local Tv 16% Radio 8%

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Americans should become more cautious about how they consume their news. The Internet and Web can be great tools for unscrupulous people attempting to manipulate information, which ends up threatening our daily lives, national security, and democracy.

Conspiracy Theories Trivia Game[edit | edit source]

The goal of this trivia game is to create awareness of how easily we may believe in conspiracy theories. You have one minute and thirty seconds to answer as many questions as you can!

Trivia Game: Are you a conspiracy theory believer?

If you like the game and want to learn more about each topic presented, go to this link click on the ? as you play the game.

Further Learning[edit | edit source]

  • Eli Pariser, Beware online "filter bubbles" TED. March, 2011. In this TED conference the activist and entrepreneur Eli Pariser explains how algorithms used by social media shape our political views.
  • Myles Bess. "Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News?" Above the Noise. An explanation of how confirmation bias works so that we end up believing what we want to believe. A lesson from National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
  • Claire Wardle, "Can you outsmart a troll (by thinking like one)?" TED-Ed. October, 2020. This video illustrates how quick and easy it is to spread false information with the purpose of manipulating people's beliefs.
  • United States Department of Homeland Security, Analytic Exchange Program. "Combatting Targeted Disinformation Campaigns: A Whole-Of-Society Issue." Homeland Security Digital Library. October, 2019. In this article a team of researchers explain how disinformation campaigns became popular, how they work, and what we can do to combat this threat.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. List the common elements of conspiracy theories. Discuss what these common elements can tell us about those who believe them, about the historical moment we are living in, and about our society.
  2. Where do you usually get your information? How do you know these sources are credible?
  3. Look at the types of information that the Web algorithms are suggesting that you check. What trends, biases, or possibly filter bubbles do you see? How could you train the algorithms to give you more diverse information?
  4. "The best way to fight ... fake news discourse is not to give counterarguments, but to try to check the validity of the other person's argument." --Journalist Thomas Huchon, "A Conspiracy Video Teaches Kids A Lesson About Fake News." Do you agree with Huchon? Is it better to fact-check the sources of a person's story than to counteract the story's fake information with facts? Which method, in your view, might change the mind of a conspiracy theory believer? Why?

References[edit | edit source]

What ma



The Fake News Effect

Warning: Display title "The Fake News Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on 5G" overrides earlier display title "Waiting for "The Great Awakening": QAnon as the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories".

Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.

― Paulo Coelho

To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.  

― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Background[edit | edit source]

Transmission and life-cycle of SARS-CoV-2-causing COVID-19

In 2019, a great number of people were infected by pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Experts investigated, finding its cause was a new betacoronavirus and called it COVID-19. This virus spreads out swiftly via droplets so humans get infected at a high rate and there is no specific medication accessible in hospitals to treat it. There are countries that have thousands of people who have died. The number of patients at the hospital has reached an all-time high, and ambulances have been running around the clock every day. Because it is a horrifying virus that dramatically alters people’s lives, governments around the world have ordered citizens to wear masks and stay home for over a year. Many people have lost their jobs and some young people who do not have savings have had a hard time getting through this period. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate climbed steadily from the end of 2019 through mid 2020:

In April 2020, the unemployment rate reached 14.8%—the highest rate observed since data collection began in 1948. In April 2021, unemployment remained higher (6.1%) than it had been in February 2020 (3.5%). The labor force participation rate declined to 60.2% in April 2020—a level not seen since the early 1970s—then began a partial recovery in May 2020. The labor force participation rate was 61.7% in April 2021, 1.7 percentage points below the level in January 2020, before the pandemic and the economic recession.[10]

Many are irritated, bewildered, and concerned about what causes the virus. In response to the uncertainty brought by the epidemic, a bizarre conspiracy hypothesis has emerged on social media about Fifth Generation (5G) technology aiding in the spread of the coronavirus, which has been shared widely by Internet users.

How have some people reacted to the theory that COVID-19 is caused by 5G?[edit | edit source]

Some individuals have bought into this fake theory and even committed atrocities to oppose 5G. In the United Kingdom, the conspiracy was peddled by conspiracy theorists and celebrities on social media, so there were many supporters of the hypothesis who set telephone poles on fire and attacked telecommunication engineers constructing fiber-optic connections.[11] In addition, many demonstrators marched in Australia, even preventing telecommuting workers from finishing their jobs.[12]  Why is this so? Because some people have been swayed by bad faith actors with ulterior objectives into thinking that a group of world leaders have orchestrated the pandemic to take control of the global economy. This conspiracy theory is called "The Great Reset", and it presents COVID-19 as a biological weapon that is being distributed in part via 5G cell towers as part of the depopulation plan.[13]

Why do people believe in this conspiracy?[edit | edit source]

There are three reasons: 1) people who reject 5G also reject 4G, 3G, and other wireless technologies, 2) the rise in the number of unemployed people has resulted in an increase in the number of people doing nothing, and 3) the dissemination of unverified information on social media. There have been conspiracy theories about the supposed harm of 5G wireless waves since the technology began gaining public attention. The basic idea is that 5G wireless signals use “additional higher frequency electromagnetic waves in addition to low and medium band frequencies used in previous cellular networks," [14] such as 4G or 3G, and they are therefore dangerous to humans and animals.[15] The origin story for this theory was presented in March 2020 in a YouTube video lecture by Dr. Thomas Cowan, who is an American doctor who is at present on disciplinary probation.[16] In the video, Dr. Thomas proposes that all viruses in human history are caused by electromagnetic waves, specifically mentioning that the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic coincided with the introduction of radio at a global scale. Dr. Thomas believes the coronavirus is a type of cellular poisoning caused by the lowering of the body’s immunity by electromagnetic fields.[17] People who live near a 5G base station are immune compromised by waves emitted by the base station, making them more vulnerable to the virus. As evidence, he cites the lack of outbreaks in Africa because there is no 5G in that continent yet. However, in the article “Does 5G Cause or Spread the Coronavirus? Here’s What Experts Say,” the author points out that the lower bands, encompassing everything from AM radio to cell phones to microwave ovens, are categorized as nonionizing radiation, and do not harm DNA directly. They have long been considered harmless except for potentially heating cells at close range.[1] Moreover, leading national authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintain that there is little to no health risk from using mobile phones given the safety limits already in place.[1]

There is no relationship between COVID-19 and 5G[edit | edit source]

FACT: 5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19
A statement by the worldwide radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which issued revised recommendations for 5G frequency deployment, confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G would be implemented are safe:
ICNIRP has just released new guidelines for exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, and we considered all possible adverse health effects. The only proven effect is that of heating of (parts of) the body, and the guidelines are set to such a low level that this will not occur if they are observed. Adverse health effects resulting from effects on the immune system have not been found and thus also cannot form a basis for exposure guidelines.[9]

Moreover, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we must come into physical contact with the coronavirus to become sick because it is transmitted from human to human by tiny respiratory droplets which travel through the air through talking, breathing, and coughing. Because it is an electromagnetic wave, 5G cannot bring you into touch with the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States also replied to the theory with “5G technology does not cause Coronavirus".[18] According to medical and scientific experts, like some other recent outbreaks, the novel coronavirus is most likely transmitted to humans by animals.[9]

Advantages of 5G[edit | edit source]

The pandemic has actually encouraged the adoption of 5G. In the article “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment,” Börje Ekholm points out that during the pandemic, 5G has an important role for the economy and the environment. The data shows that:

In its first 5G Outlook Series report, the World Economic Forum highlighted several activities behind that increased usage: in healthcare, a 490% increase in telemedicine urgent care visits; in socialization a 75% increase in online gaming; and in retail, online transactions were up 74% globally. In the world of work, Ericsson’s Mobility Report showed 60% of white-collar workers increased their usage of video calls.
Despite the sudden and unprecedented changes in traffic patterns and demand, the networks performed well, with operators generally providing enough network performance. This strong performance was reflected in users’ perceptions, with 83% claiming ICT helped them a lot, in one way or another, to cope with lockdowns.
Without the investments made in 4G and 5G, none of the uses including telemedicine, video calls and gaming could have been delivered to the extent seen through the pandemic. [19]

In addition, All of the applications place demands on today's networks that would quickly push them to their limits. The development of 5G has increased network use and facilitated companies' significant science and technology development. Therefore, the development of 5G technology has brought us advantages and convenience. The most important thing is that 5G has also enabled more new positions in society, and local groups have more job opportunities.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In conclusion, all evidence shows that COVID-19 is not caused by 5G.  Rather, the pandemic has promoted the demand and created a larger market for 5G, accelerating its application and providing opportunities for its global implementation. As 5G consumers, people will benefit from this new technology, which includes connection speeds as fast as fiber, more stable connections, smoother streaming, and video calling with fewer buffering. When deciding whether or not to adopt something new, we should not rely on public opinion to determine if it is good or bad. This should be a lesson as to why we must stick to the scientific method of separating facts from fiction.

Comprehension questions[edit | edit source]

  • How is 5G technology different from 4G and 3G? How did its difference cause some people to believe 5G was creating the pandemic?
  • Who and what was harmed by this conspiracy theory?
  • What real impact has 5G played in the epidemic?

Discussion questions[edit | edit source]

  • What could be the reasons why people began to spread this conspiracy theory about COVID-19 and 5G? What could be the reasons other people support this theory and share it?
  • Describe a conspiracy theory that you would never share with your social network and explain why you would not share it.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Kaitlyn Tiffany, “Something in the Air.The Atlantic. This article examines in depth why the 5G fear is nothing new, and why the fears are unfounded.
  • James Meese, Jordan Frith, and Rowan Wilken, “COVID-19, 5G conspiracies and infrastructural futures.” Media International Australia. August 27, 2020. This article also gives background information on the fears of 5G but argues that we must “look beyond conspiracy theories to a larger set of [geopolitical and economic] concerns.”

References[edit | edit source]



More Than a Number

Warning: Display title "More Than a Number: China’s Social Crediting System Comes with Inherent Bias" overrides earlier display title "The Fake News Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on 5G".

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In the episode “Nosedive” of the dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror, Lacie, a woman obsessed with climbing up the social ladder but unable to secure the apartment of her dreams because of her low social media score, follows the advice of a social media consultant by attempting to impress “High Fours,” people whose score is closest to her society’s standard of social achievement, the five-star rating. Conceived by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker as “a satire of acceptance and the image we like to portray”, “Nosedive” speaks to present social media anxieties and our excessive adoration of social media influencers.[20] But to actually lose one’s job because of a low social rating, as the episode portrays, is far-fetched, right? Not exactly. In fact, this is exactly what may be happening in China today due to its social crediting system.[21]

By the Numbers[edit | edit source]

China has the strongest presence on the Internet in the world, with nearly one billion users.[22] China also has some of the strictest media censorship, and most of the websites and Web 2.0 services used in the Western world are blocked completely and subsequently replaced by “copycats” of their own: while the Western world is used to Google, the Chinese have Baidu. Instead of Twitter, the Chinese have Weibo. In place of Facebook, the Chinese have created Renren. Instead of viewing videos on YouTube, Chinese people view them on Youku and Tudou.[1]

By keeping Chinese people on their own websites that usually record and store all their personal data within buildings in the country’s capital, Beijing, the government can constantly monitor what is done online and by whom.[23] And now that China is implementing a national social crediting system, this government surveillance coupled with the Chinese people’s embrace of their censored Internet could lead to a disastrous result. History has shown that people in power -- especially those with access to innovative technology -- tend to favor the wealthy and elite.

Social Credit[edit | edit source]

An illustration of the credit system showing where the deciding data will be pulled from and how it will affect its person. From The Wall Street Journal.

So, what is the new Chinese social credit system and how does it work? Formally introduced in 2011 by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the social credit system is the Chinese government’s project to create a unified record system to track and evaluate its citizens, businesses, and regional administrations for trustworthiness. Some regional administrations rate trustworthiness using a numerical value, while the central government uses mostly blacklisting and whitelisting.[9] It was officially set to begin in 2020, but the deadline was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] Some aspects of it are similar to the credit checks that banks run--using credit rating companies such as Experian in the United States--before providing someone with a loan. It also resembles the way that social media value is measured in the West, which usually depends on an Internet user’s follower count or the amount of likes they receive on online posts. The Chinese system, however, will apply these ratings to all aspects of Chinese life. A citizen or business can be given a high ranking for donating to charity, or have value deducted for grievances such as playing music loudly.[9] [25]

Once the national system is fully implemented, Chinese citizens, businesses, and local governments will be assigned a number based on the data gathered from Chinese “big tech,”[25] that is, the innovative technology across the country that collects personal information as well as other data gathered from websites that people and small businesses may access.

One such technology key to information gathering is Artificial Intelligence (AI) that uses facial recognition technology to monitor citizens and their movements. Since the transgressions that the Chinese government will look for can range from jaywalking and unsound business practices to evidence of sharing anti-government rhetoric, once the system is in place, AI and the cameras will be able to do most of the work in tracking the citizens and alerting the government of violations.[26]

The negative impact of a bad score for businesses and people will also varies. As mentioned, the central government already has a running blacklist of businesses and people who they feel have acted poorly. By being blacklisted, the government publicly shames the transgressors while banning some personal rights and potentially limiting their ability to continue to do business. Some local governments have offered positive incentives for having a good score to try to increase trust in the system, such as prioritized healthcare and deposit-free housing.[26]

China and the Internet[edit | edit source]

As stated earlier, the Chinese government blocks Western social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, replacing them with their own. By allowing only these websites to exist and monitoring the content their citizens are allowed to post, the Chinese government can control the narrative and opinions around the country.

Say something about a censorship law or something damning about your official? One can be expected to be taken offline, prosecuted, and even in some cases permanently blacklisted from basic human rights such as access to healthcare and transportation. Say something good or release a story about an official the government may already want ousted? Expect to gain some notoriety when the government allows your opinion to be circulated for days before they finally take it down. This type of selective censorship may raise alarms to a Chinese citizen who now faces the threat of the government applying scores that influence opinion on who is worthy of access to basic human liberties.[1]

With China being the most populated country in the world, holding about 20% of the world’s population according to their last census, the public’s desire for a watchful eye in the form of social crediting is expected, but may also be skewed because China is an authoritarian regime:  

Overall, [the Chinese] report a high degree of approval of SCSs [social crediting systems], with 80% of [participants] either approving or strongly approving SCSs. Only 19% of [participants] perceive the SCS in value neutral terms (neither disapprove nor approve) while just 1% reported either strong or somewhat disapproval. To some extent, the high degree of approval of SCSs and the almost non-existent disapproval we found might reflect the nature of conducting a survey in an authoritarian setting—while were clearly informed that that the data were anonymized and to be used for research purposes only, some more cautious [participants] may have falsified their preferences to a degree due to concerns about expressions of disapproval resulting in reprisals from the state.[27] 

People gather around an Artificial Intelligence exhibit.

This same ideology may contribute to the public’s general acceptance of their censored Internet. As Chinese people do not get the option to speak out against the government, one must hope that the new implementation of technology will cause more good than harm, especially now that the Chinese government is pushing the surveillance of children, as illustrated in the Wall Street Journal’s special report “How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms." At one point, the report focuses on an electroencephalography (EEG) headband that young students must wear to gauge their attention during lessons, whose output is monitored by the teacher and shared with all the students' parents. When the reporters show the footage to neuroscientist Theodore Santo of the University of California, San Francisco, he is surprised, noting that the technology is susceptible to false readings, so he is not sure how useful it would be for measuring attention. The Chinese teachers, however, explain that the use of the headbands themselves have "forced to make students more disciplined."[28] In other words, the technology is molding the behavior of students at a very early age.

Xinjiang[edit | edit source]

Xinjiang in China. Xinjiang means "new borderland" and borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

Furthermore, China has long used technology to monitor and suppress their ethnic minority populations. In Xinjang, a region on the border of China and home to the country’s largest Muslim population, adherence is instilled in the forms of virtual checkpoints and the swiping of ID cards. The Chinese government has completely digitized policing and is creating a state of constant surveillance to keep the population in line. Some people are allowed to bypass these checkpoints and are not subject to digitized policing. Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur of the New York Times report that “at many checkpoints, privileged groups — Han Chinese, Uighur officials with passes, and foreign visitors — are waved through “green channels.” Although the Chinese may seek more trust and policing, this is an obvious form of targeted surveillance that can have the possibility of trickling into more minority groups.[29]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

With China already implementing its social crediting system and the fear of being blacklisted at the forefront, I understand that resisting the government is a daunting task. I also understand that this is a great moral issue in which an increased number of Chinese people will be stripped of their basic human rights. Technological innovation is growing at a faster pace than anyone can keep up with and blindly following the government’s application of said technology will prove disastrous for all parties, but as history has shown, the minority will always be left with the biggest burden.

I implore the Chinese people to resist the use of such a credit system. The first step would be choosing not to opt-in to the private aggregators of data. Before the mass implementation of the social crediting system, private companies have begun to gather information on an opt-in basis, I implore you to resist. The government wins every time one of their allotted big corporations is favored. Small businesses and anyone with hiring power should also disregard consideration of the crediting scores when making hiring decisions. By doing this, the people could nullify the crediting system and leave it to the government to use it solely. Though Chinese citizens might think that the benefits of a surveillance state (including safety and security) outweigh the harms outlined in this paper, I ask you to reconsider. Further, I argue that the risk of loss of human rights and liberty for minor transgressions such as jaywalking should outweigh any benefits.

At the end of “Nosedive,” Lacie is finally overwhelmed by her lifelong desire to secure a high score. She realizes that her desire to fit into the pastel-perfect life of her disingenuous friend is made up of a societal standard that will never allow her to truly live a fulfilling life. Within a day, she was heaved to the bottom of the social ladder, along with the very people she ignored and chastised her entire life. By drinking out of a red flask of whiskey that finally released her from her flawed perception,* she was able to finally live again and see the people for who they really are, past their assigned scores. I ask Chinese citizens to do the same: take the red flask and see past whatever social crediting system may be implemented among them. Your children, your neighbor, and yourself will thank you in the long run. We are more than a number.

Notes

*This is reference to a scene from the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix, where the protagonist is given the choice between learning the hard truth by taking a red pill or living in a comfortable illusion by taking a blue pill.

Further learning[edit | edit source]

Discussion questions[edit | edit source]

  • What are forms of financial, work performance, and social credit scoring in the United States? How are they similar to the Chinese system? How are they different? In your opinion, could the institutions that run our financial and our social credit scores be turned into a loosely unified system similar to that of China?
  • What kind of citizen is the Chinese government attempting to obtain through its system of credit rewards and punishments? What could be the reasons for making every citizens' score public, accessible, and displayable? What could be the reasons for deploying monitoring technologies in school?
  • What could be some unintended consequences of manipulating a population's social behaviors?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f g LaFrance, Adrienne. “The Prophecies of Q.” The Atlantic. June 2020. Invalid <ref> tag; name ":0" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name ":0" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Rozsa, Matthew. "QAnon is the conspiracy theory that won't die."Salon. August 18, 2019.
  3. Clements, Mary and Joonam Bayan. QAnon 101: The Search for Q. YouTube, January 25, 2021.
  4. Wikipedia contributors. "Psychological operations (United States)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 May. 2021.
  5. Chason, Rachel and Samantha Schmidt. “Lafayette Square, Capitol rallies met starkly different policing response.” The Washington Post. January 14, 2021.
  6. Russonello, Giovanni. “QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests.” New York Times. May 27, 2021.
  7. MacFarquhar, Neil. “Far-Right Extremists Move from ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine”. The New York Times. March 26, 2021.
  8. Ehrenreich, John. “Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories.” Slate. January 11, 2021.
  9. a b c d e f Mitchell, Amy, et al. “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable.” Pew Research Center. July 30,2020. Invalid <ref> tag; name ":1" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name ":1" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Congressional Research Service. “Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Congressional Research Service, 20 May 2020. Updated June 15 2021.
  11. Heilweil, Rebecca. “How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory went from fringe to mainstream.VOX, 24 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
  12. Bibby, Paul. “Protesters stop work on 5G installation at Mullumbimby.Echo, 22 April 2020.  Accessed 18 May 2021.
  13. Goodman, Jack, and Flora Carmichael. “The coronavirus pandemic 'Great Reset' theory and a false vaccine claim debunked.BBC News, 22 November 2020. Accessed 28 May 2021.
  14. Wikipedia contributors. "5G." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 May. 2021. Web. 31 May. 2021.
  15. Hamilton, Isobel Asher. “Here's what we know about the bizarre coronavirus 5G conspiracy theory that is leading people to set mobile phone masts on fire.” Business Insider, 6 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
  16. Ostrov, Barbara Feder. “Conspiracy theory doctor surrenders medical license.” CAlmatters, 8 Feb 2021,   Accessed 28 May 2021.
  17. Nicholson, Katie, Jason Ho, and Jeff Yates. “Viral video claiming 5G caused pandemic is easily debunked.” CBC News March 23, 2020
  18. Mpoyo, Carol Fouke. “Are 5G Networks Spreading the Coronavirus?” United Church of Christ  6 July 2020.  Accessed 20 May 2021.
  19. Ekholm, Börje. “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment.” Weforum, 13 January 2021. Accessed 10 May 2021.
  20. “Black Mirror Featurette: ‘Nosedive’.” YouTube. Oct 12, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HQ4Dh0noIk  
  21. Lee, Amanda. “What is China’s social credit system and why is it controversial?South China Morning Post, 9 August 2020
  22. Cheng, Evelyn. “China says it now has nearly 1 billion internet users.” CNBC, 4 Feb 2021.
  23. Liu, Gary. “The rapid growth of the Chinese internet-- and where it's headed.Ted.com. April 2018.
  24. Donnelly, Drew. “An Introduction to the China Social Credit System.” New Horizons, 2021.  
  25. a b Kobie, Nicole. “The complicated truth about China's social credit system.Wired, 6 July 2019.  
  26. a b Robertson, Megan, et al. “China’s Social Credit System: Speculation vs. Reality.The Diplomat, 30 March 2021.  
  27. Kostka, Genia. “China’s social credit systems and public opinion: Explaining high levels of approval.” New Media & Society, 21.7 2019: 1565-1593. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1461444819826402  
  28. Tai, Crystal. “How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms." The World Street Journal 1 October 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMLsHI8aV0g
  29. Buckley, Chris, and Paul Mozur. “How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities.The New York Times 22 May 2019.

 



Digital Cult

Warning: Display title "Digital Cult: Is Online Dating Making You Socially Awkward?" overrides earlier display title "More Than a Number: China’s Social Crediting System Comes with Inherent Bias".

If you want to be happy, learn to be alone without being lonely. Learn that being alone does not mean being unhappy. The world is full of plenty of interesting and enjoyable things to do and people who can enrich your life.
-Michael Josephson
Dating is about finding out who you are and who others are. If you show up in a masquerade outfit, neither is going to happen.
-Henry Cloud
Can digital love replace physical love?

In 1993, Gary Kremen saw the future in online dating; he knew the need for love was ubiquitous, so in 1995 he launched the first online dating site, Match.com, an online community where singles could connect; the rest was history. Today, tens of millions invest in dating sites every year; it seems everyone is looking for love online. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, three in ten U.S. adults say they have used an online dating site or app. And while technology has made it easier to find a potential partner, it has also reduced singles from three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information.[1] Dating apps have also resulted in cognitive overload. It is almost like a video game in which we do not select people; we are selecting options. As singles continue to sign up, the corporations flourish while their customers become more socially or romantically awkward.

In the online dating world, the chances of people getting married are few. Roughly only 12 percent of online dating sites users reported marriage or long term commitment.[1] In some instances, the relationship leads to friendship, but many end up in heartbreak. Part of the problem is that while it is comfortable to sit behind the computer and converse, it can potentially lead people to be socially awkward if all they do is communicate via online chat. People who use online dating sites should make it a habit to get to a level where they can share via telephone and eventually plan an in-person date. The notion of only communicating via messages and having no personal interaction can ultimately lead to not speaking in person.

In her 2012 TEDTalk “Connected, but Alone?,” Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, discusses how our excessive reliance on online communication is making us less capable of deep interpersonal connections. Turkle is concerned that people do not know how to be alone anymore. We rely on technology to find attention whenever we need it, which leads to a false sense of security.[2] And the more we dive into technology to feel secure, the more we lose our sense of reality. Hiding from real life has become easy; texting, email, and social media has allowed us to create the version of ourselves that we want to be. People have become accustomed to one-word text and short emails so much that we sacrifice deep conversations and getting to know people. Thereby the paradox: online dating can be successful for a person who already knows how to communicate in real life.

Match Algorithms[edit | edit source]

Online dating has been a catalyst for matchmaking for over twenty years, yet people are still dissatisfied with their relationships’ stature. There may be a commercial reason for that. Violet Lim has been in the dating industry for over fourteen years. The online matchmaking she founded with her husband has matched over 100,000 singles. In her August 2018 TEDxntu talk,[3] Lim spoke of how dating algorithms’ created by companies like Match Group, the primary purpose is not to match you with your “perfect mate.” “swipe left” “ swipe right” every year, billions are swiping. Algorithms are set up to keep you in an endless cycle of matches to keep singles logged in longer. But with more matches comes more rejection - which can lead to being more disconnected or lonely. Lim points out that we may be so caught up in superficial criteria that we lose focus on significant criteria such as kindness, reliability, and trustworthiness. Thus many different dating websites can be a trap for everyone looking for rush rewards and gratification, especially now that it has become the “it thing” to date online. Even Facebook added an online dating option in 2016. So while Facebook originally was a way to connect with families and friends worldwide, it is now trending to make love connections.

Swiping Risk[edit | edit source]

While searching for love, online singles can put themselves at risk, at risk of identity theft, online harassment, and scammers. The instabilities and cruelty of society far too often have the dating scene appearing distorted. Lim explains that not everything on dating apps is accurate and that it is difficult to get an exact representation of a person from possibly altered photos. The MTV reality-TV documentary Catfish which examines the truths and lies of online relationships is a perfect example of this. This show has shown people falling in love, only for the person on the other side of the computer to refuse to meet on FaceTime and, in some cases, talk on the phone. All these are major red flags that should not be ignored, but far too often, singles get caught up in wanting to find love, and when they have exhausted all other options, and ignore the red flags. Red flags are not always apparent: scammers will request personal information such as your address, pretending to send you romantic gifts. Still, in all actuality, they want to steal your personal information. According to the FBI annual 2019 Internet Crime Report, 19,473 people were victims of romance scams.[4] A romance scam is usually a fake profile that scammers create to gain their victim’s trust and scam them out of money.[5]

The Bots[edit | edit source]

Additionally, before stepping into the online dating world, you need to know yourself, what you are looking for, and, most importantly, why you choose online dating versus the option of organically meeting someone the traditional way. Lim agrees that dating apps are meant to connect people, but all the generic profiles and faulty algorithms make it harder. The companies who run OkCupid, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Match.com are all interested in the same thing: click for profit. Lim gives an example of a single man signing up for a dating app; he receives a message from what seems an attractive young lady, but then he must pay when he tries to reply. And while many singles do so thinking they are responding to genuine messages, it’s an automated message sent by a bot. Some dating apps even create bots to lure users into paying.

Online dating comes with many issues. Let us take Josh Rivera, the editor for USA Today,[6] who dives right into bots and online dating scams in his article "You may be matching with a bot." Users Carlos Zavala from Washington DC and Frankie Heart in Tokyo said they had seen bots on dating apps, even more now during the coronavirus pandemic. Like all chatbots, dating-app bots are coded software that simulates a "chat" with users by utilizing natural language processing. These bots can be so advanced that many people fall for these tactics. Ruby Gonzalez, head of communications at NordVPN Virtual security, warns users that "Despite Tinder being one of the smoothest and easiest-to-use dating apps, it's full of fake accounts and bots that can ruin the whole user experience."[7]

The Illusion[edit | edit source]

While dating apps are a platform for finding love, it may all be an illusion; some singles are going online looking to feel desirable. In 2010, John C. Bridges, a professor, writer, and speaker, wrote The Illusion of Intimacy, covering the online dating process, intimacy issues, and how illusion and fantasy distort reality and shared online dating problems. Describing online dating as the “new form of hope,”[8]
Digital dating may very well be a Phantom
Bridges claims that in the online world, people are likely to engage in behaviors they usually would not in the real world because they are behind a veil. In chapter four of his book, Bridges explains that “[his] interviewees tell stories of people who have deliberately posted old photos of themselves that are not accurate representations of how they appear today or have posted photos that are simply the most flattering."[8] The online dating world is all about perfection, searching for the “perfect relationship,” where in reality, there is no such a thing as a “perfect relationship.” According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in ten online daters claim it is common for those who use online platforms to lie to appear more desirable. There are many fake profiles on dating sites, even some planted by dating sites to lure users. That kind of deception and false hope can affect users. About 45 percent of Americans who used dating apps say they were left feeling disappointed.[1]


Love Lockdown

Since there are so many online dating problems, one must ask whether online dating is worth it in the long run? It is essential to understand why we feel the need to turn to these platforms. For example, we were hit by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, which has changed how people socialize because they must quarantine, socially isolate themselves, and find other ways to spend their time. The use of dating apps has grown because of being forced to stay at home. Tinder, one of the most common dating apps, has seen a significant increase in user engagement. Tinder claims that since being told to quarantine due to coronavirus in March 2020, users have sent an average of 52 percent more messages. In the article “College students are still finding romance in a pandemic, through Zoom crushes and actual dates,” author Annabelle Williams discusses the shift in campus dating due to the coronavirus. Some schools prohibit close contact with anyone outside of roommates; other schools like the University of Georgia recommend students wear masks while hooking up--then withdrew their statements when met with ridicule. Williams explains that traditional dating that allows you to present yourself during an actual interaction has ceased to exist. She claims dorm hookups, once a staple of college, has mostly become a thing of the past. She refers to “masked first dates being the new norm. She explains that the shift in campus life makes it harder to find romantic partners, social circles, lab partners, and gym partners, and all have been virtually replaced by Zoom and dating apps. And while some students are coping, some are getting bored. Scout Turkle, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, says the pandemic has made what she calls “convenient intimacies less available. Turkle has been hooking up with her housemates because she says, "it does feel like a huge deal to lose [her] only clear opportunity for physical intimacy during a time it does not feel available to [her]." Williams explains that this desire for intimacy is why dating apps on campus are increasing in popularity. For students, the pandemic is a cause for concern when dating because in-person contact can pose a health risk, and dorm restrictions do not make it any easier.[9]

Graph based on data by Mary Meisenzahl in "Match Group subscribers increase since Feb/29/2020." Business Insider. Aug 5, 2020.

Research before the pandemic had already shown a connection between loneliness and compulsive app use among students. According to a new study conducted by Kathryn Caduto, a doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University, single people who use dating apps on their phones suffer from loneliness and social anxiety. The user experience was recorded in the article "What compulsive dating-app users have in common," written by Jeff Grabmeier, senior director of Research Communications at Ohio State University. A total of 269 undergraduate students participated in the study. The participants were asked a series of questions to gauge their isolation and anxiety using dating apps. Those who already showed signs of stress agreed more to statements like "I am more confident socializing on dating apps than offline." The results did not surprise Caduto; she says, "[i]t's a problem [she] has seen firsthand. The lonelier users are, the more likely they are to go on dating apps."[7] People with higher levels of social anxiety chose to meet people on dating apps rather than in person. They also preferred socializing with their app matches without meeting face-to-face. Researchers found that users who are depressed are more likely to turn to dating apps for affirmation, which leads to more negative outcomes. Participants also reported missing work and class because of their frequent monitoring of dating apps.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Dating apps offer limitless possible matches at your fingertips, turning an intimate experience into something more like a video game. Online dating can be overwhelming, even daunting. You have no idea what the person you are e-mailing looks like or what they are like personally. Since internet dating starts online, some people share photographs from several years ago, while others do not have such exciting pictures; photos do not always represent reality. I think it's fair to assume, though, online dating has its pros: it's easy, universal, and discreet, but it also has its drawbacks, such as dishonest people or cybercrime. Is one outweighing the other? I think it depends on what you are searching for and what you are looking for. More so, what has been your past dating history? Things move at a different pace in digital reality. Knowing someone online for two weeks may feel like a lifetime, and you may feel ready for a romantic relationship too soon. While the ability to choose how much your future partner goes out, what kind of food they eat, and what type of work they do can sound appealing, you should be more concerned with forming a real relationship. As the industry continues to expand, some experts question whether dating app companies are genuinely interested in making love connections. Or do they want to keep people in an endless, endless loop of searching and matching?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Anderson, Monica, Emily A. Vogels and Erica Turner. "The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating." Pew Research Center, Feb. 6, 2020.
  2. Turkle, Sherry. "Connected, but alone?" Ted.com Feb. 2012.
  3. Lim, Violet. “What Dating Apps and Algorithms Don't Tell You!” TEDxNTU August 2018.
  4. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2019 Internet Crime Report.
  5. Davidson, Paul. "Romance scams cost Americans $143 million." USA Today, Feb. 14, 2019, p. 03B.
  6. Rivera, Josh. "You may be matching with a bot." USA Today. July 14 2020, p. 03B.
  7. a b Grabmeier, Jeff. What compulsive dating-app users have in common. Ohio State News July 31, 2019.
  8. a b Bridges, John C. The Illusion of Intimacy: Problems in the World of Online Dating. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2012. Print.
  9. Williams, Annabelle. "College students are still finding romance in a pandemic, through Zoom crushes and actual dates." Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2020.

Glossary[edit | edit source]

Algorithm: A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

  • The algorithms that match various users have become much quicker and more convenient than ever before to find a possible date.

Gratification: Pleasure, especially when gained from the satisfaction of a desire.

  • Do you wonder we expect immediate and instant gratification that comes with online dating? It's because we have websites that date for us.

Interpersonal: Relating to relationships or communication between people.

  • Online dating has altered the way interpersonal relationships are formed.

Pandemic: (Of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

  • COVID-19 Pandemic has  many singles on mobile dating apps as a way to explore their choices while social distancing.

Reliance: Dependence on or trust in someone or something.

  • Singles are spending more time keeping up with all these applications, earnestly searching for love and unsure where else to look for it. However, users must be made aware of the potential reliance on dating apps.

Representations: The description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.

  • The way singles represent themselves in person does not always correlate with how others interpret there Dating profiles.

Simulates : Produce a computer model of.

Ubiquitous: Present, appearing, or found everywhere.

  • The most accessible way to meet individuals is through dating apps. However, as dating apps become more ubiquitous, Singles must decide they are getting genuine matches.  

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

On the effectiveness of online dating

On romance scams[edit | edit source]

On the effect of online dating during a pandemic[edit | edit source]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  • Is algorithmic matchmaking useful or is it a smokescreen to make users feel that their matches are based on fact and logic? Considering that the algorithms of many social media seem to include variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement to addict us to use their services, how do we know that dating algorithms work to fulfill the best interest of customers?
  • How does swiping through hundreds of eligible profiles affect our experience of romance? Is this shopping approach to love exciting or chilling?
  • Is it ethical or even desirable to hire a dating assistant to manage one's online dating experience?
  • Are the intentions of dating online pure? It can be an exciting and enjoyable way to meet potential partners by exploring the world of Internet dating. You may quickly discover, however, profiles are not as they seem. When dating online, singles have to be aware of potential red flags and scammers.
  • When it comes to modern-day romance, the 21st century is now hitting its height. The handwritten love letters will no longer exist, and going out into the real world to look for love is gone. With the current coronavirus pandemic, how will it impact online dating?



Contributors