Advertisers seek social media platforms that promote positive impact

As this blog has noted, much of social media has devolved into a culture of perpetual outrage by angry people often consumed with hate. This sort of social media is not fun to be around. Advertisers are noticing this too:

“Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed is expected to say Monday during the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting in Palm Desert, Calif.

We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society,” he will say, according to prepared remarks.

Source: Unilever Threatens to Reduce Ad Spending on Tech Platforms That Don’t Combat Divisive Content – WSJ

Do social media propagandists suffer from fragile egos?

This linked piece was shared into my FB news feed. The item argues that President Trump suffers a fragile ego and is constantly looking for affirmation from others.

The column says people seek to increase their “tribal self esteem” by strengthening their group membership, by, for example, spreading online propaganda messaging in support of their cause – and denigrating those who think otherwise (for any reason).

The column quotes from Nathaniel Branden:

“It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.”

This is the form of much online social media propaganda, whether you call it “I’m right and your wrong” or “My group is smarter than your group”.

It comes down to fragile egos seeking positive feedback from their own group.

Much online social media propaganda reinforces group membership – it certainly does not cause the target to change their perspective. But “sharing” such propaganda virtue signals one’s self importance within the group garnering group support that satisfies the social media propaganda participant’s ego.

Source: Trump’s Ego Is Actually Too Small – Foundation for Economic Education – Working for a free and prosperous world

Life Time fitness chain removes news channels from all TVs as constant news not healthy

Life Time fitness, a chain of gyms in the U.S. and Canada has removed all cable news channels from the televisions displayed throughout their facility, as customers complained that the constant barrage of news was not healthy.

Source: Life Time fitness chain blacks out all-news TV channels – StarTribune.com

That we need to be constantly entertained while doing something like exercise illustrates how ingrained media consumption (and manipulation!) has become.

But it is interesting to see that many others are fed up with the constant barrage of 24 x 7 “news” (I put that in quotes since most of it is now entertainment, not traditional news reporting).

Me – I go running. I do not even listen to music while running. Clearly, I am weird!

Constant consumption of news leads to anxiety, sleep problems, night mares, sense of distraction and loss of control

Staying informed is a strength, but for many people it’s mushroomed into an obsession with the news.

Source: My therapy clients can’t tear themselves away from the news — and it’s messing with their lives – The Washington Post

Personally, I found that certain subjects were “triggering” anxiety in me and I have cut way back on news and social media consumption. I also unfollowed or unfriended individuals who spent most of their social media time baiting people with hostile political rants. These steps led to improved sleep and better mental health.

Through my fascination with propaganda and the creation of this web site, I learned how media is manipulative. I learned how it uses emotional hooks as bait for our attention, and how these hooks inflame our emotional state. I learned that ranting on social media is not healthy for those doing the ranting nor for their drive by victims.

I learned that a large quantity of news is speculation, often intended to inflame our emotions (and the speculation generally proves unfounded when we look back at old news stories). I also learned that much news is pointless, exaggerated, lacking in context or surprisingly wrong. We pretend we are being informed when in reality news is mostly a distraction and a form of entertainment.

We’ve gone to a 24 x 7 cable TV driven news cycle – where almost all of it is repetitive drivel and speculation of no importance to any of us. We will doubtfully remember most stories in a day, let a lone in a week.

Much news reporting is pure speculation, not actual reporting

I ran across a link to an old CNN Money financial news report from October 24, 2016. Every speculation made in this news report was wrong and illustrates how much “news” is not really reporting on events but is speculation about the future.

One week before the 2016 Presidential election, CNN Money’s report is titled

Key points:

  • If Donald Trump wins, U.S. stocks – and likely world markets – will “almost certainly tank”
  • “A Trump victory would be “America’s Brexit.” It would shock U.S. and global markets, much like the surprise, June referendum in the U.K.”
  • “Almost everyone on Wall Street currently predicts Hillary Clinton will win”
  • “A Trump triumph would likely cause investors to flee stocks to the safety of gold and bonds”.
  • “the market is already pricing in a Clinton win”
  • Voters like a split government but “there’s a growing fear that the Senate — and even the House — could flip [to Democrats] if voters come out strongly for Democrats.”
  • There is a 71% chance Democrats retake the Senate
  • “All the ‘market metrics’ point to a Clinton victory

All of the key points were speculation and were wrong.

Do watch the CNN video at the link and do watch the reporter’s body language. (The reporter no longer works for CNN. She now works for the Washington Post.)

Impact on Social Media and Propaganda

These news reports are entertainment stories designed to occupy your time while pretending to inform you.

These stories become the basis for social media conversations as they are Shared, Liked and Commented on via Twitter and Facebook.

These stories whip some into emotional outrage. In reality these stories waste our time – we are not better off for having watched or read a story that ended up being 100% wrong. In fact, we may be worse off.

Speculative Stories Are Easily Spun into High Emotional Impact Stories

Large numbers of news reports are pure speculation about the future; none are ever a scorecard of whether past speculation proved true or false. Speculative stories are entertainment to fill a 24 x 7 news cycle, to keep our eyes glued for the delivery of advertising messages. Reporters can find an authority (“Appeal to authority”) to find any quote they want. Speculative stories are easily spun into high emotion grabbing content, which is perfect for Sharing – or merely to lull our brains into being more susceptible to advertisements.

Bottom line: Learn to recognize speculative news reports and do not take them seriously. Learn to think for yourself and question whether someone is spinning a story to persuade you of something. Avoid sharing speculation on social media – all that does is amplify that you’ve wasted your time and think your friends should waste their time too.

Disclaimer – The U.S. is so polarized that I am required to post a disclaimer: reminder, I did not vote for Trump and the above comments are not pro- or anti-Trump but are a comment about the use of speculation as an editorial technique to inflame our emotions and engage us into social media propaganda sharing.

Supporting Data

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More on how social media “negativity” harms us all

Highlighting the work of social psychologist Roy Baumeister, Seppälä points out that our brain’s “tendency to give more weight to the negative may have helped our species survive by highlighting potential dangers.”

“However, in this day and age, our negativity bias, both as it relates to the environment and to our self-judgments, is harmful,” she writes.

Source: Psychologist says this mindset makes you happier and successful

Attributes of social media – especially the angry, negative posts – may be overloading our brain’s ability to cope with the scary. We really are better off focusing on the positive rather than the negative.