I hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving last week and spent it eating some good food with family or friends. I was fortunate to get turkey and dressing this year at a local restaurant owned by an American and whose head chef is a Georgia boy. It wasn’t home, but the food was good and plentiful.
I was reading something last week and came across this: “If you don’t know what they are selling, then there is a good chance you are the product.” I didn’t give it much thought at the time but as the week progressed I thought about this more and more. Allow me to explain:
In 1949, George Orwell wrote his dystopian novel titled 1984. Many of you may have read this novel but those that haven’t will certainly remember the term “big brother” and how this leader in the book called big brother was watching the masses.
The year 1984 came in our history and though we were not plunged into a society like that in the book some things did happen like increased government and private surveillance on all levels of our society. And then in the early 1990’s through the current year we began to invite “big brother” into our homes in the form of personal computers, smartphones and phablets.
And here was “big brother” in our homes and he was so comfortable in our lives and user-friendly we’ll just call him “Big Bubba.” And we will tell him everything, our hopes, our dreams, our mother’s maiden name, the name of our first school teacher. We worry about privacy and not letting others see our information, our personal information. But yet, we share all of this with Big Bubba—and more! The things we like to eat, the places we like to visit, the books we love to read and the movies we die to watch.
And we take him with us everywhere and instead of spending time with our family and friends we cannot take our eyes off Big Bubba. He wants our attention and we want to share our time with him. We buy special protective covers for him, so he does not get damaged or cracked. We buy auxiliary batteries to make sure that he stays charged and in charge through every minute of our lives.
There was a time when making hotel reservations we looked at cleanliness and comfort in selecting a room. Now we look to see if the hotel has free wifi and is it dependable and fast. We now pack an additional piece of luggage just to hold all of our extra batteries and wires that we need to keep Big Bubba plugged into our lives. A whole life-support system for Big Bubba.
Our need to get and share information has become the priority in our lives and this monster, who demands our attention, hides behind the face of social media while it sucks the life out our real-world relationships like a digital vampire. And our government did not do this to us. We did it to ourselves. We allowed the monster into our homes.
Please don’t think I am preaching at you. I am preaching at myself just as much. I am trying to finish a novel but this addiction to the internet, this craving for social media eats into my time just as it does so many others. In a place, so far from my family and friends, I strive to find a balance between staying productive and staying connected. Big Bubba keeps calling my name—like the plant in “Little House of Horrors” constantly saying, “Feed me, Seymour, feed me.”
All of my ranting about Big Bubba, the Internet and social media brings me back to my original statement. “If you don’t know what they are selling, then there is a good chance you are the product.” And that is true. How does Facebook make its money? By convincing people to advertise to YOU! You are social media’s product, and they are selling you every day to millions of advertisers.
And we have provided all the information to allow these advertisers to target and market to us with great success. They know our ages, our birthdays, and every little detail of our lives. We sit back in amazement and wonder how that advertiser knew what we liked—it’s almost like they are reading our minds, but the real truth is they are regurgitating our information back to us and packaging it in the form of a new product or service that matches our profile. We have become pawns of Big Bubba, and Big Bubba is not the government but social media and its advertisers.
Christmas is coming soon and with it new versions of Big Bubba, new cords and chargers to buy, new data plans to subscribe to at the local phone store and new folks coming to social media. Let’s try something together…pick a day and put Big Bubba to sleep. Unplug him, do not charge his battery, leave him at home. Spend time with your family, look people in the eye and listen to them when they speak, enjoy the holidays. If that works, try for two days the next week. I am going to try and do this, I promise. Otherwise, Big Bubba wins. In the end he won’t even care, he won’t be there for you—the only folks that will care will be the ones that wanted your attention while you were alive.