For last two months we all have been hearing the voice overs in our homes “Rhea has left home….Rhea has reached so and so”; the power of media is indeed controlling and to some extent shaping our perceptions about critical issues all around us. The battle of TRPs and the rising noise levels are drumming our ears, the battle for our mind is fierce like never before. Al Ries & Jack Trout might revisit their definition of ‘positioning’, which was supposed to revolutionize business strategies to position products/ideas in the mind of the consumers. Revolution it is! No second thoughts.
Consumers has no time to think! Victim of Verbal nailing and visual hammering, the innocent consumer is all confused; acting like a robot in the hands of the media. THIS is what we call social dilemma. Yes, we fall prey to our innate need for connection and approval, and we’ll always have a propensity to become addicted to things that make us feel good. But we’re still and nevertheless, responsible for and in control of our own choices.
So, can we get out of this trap? Well the central concept of Nash equilibrium says that “social dilemma is a stable state in which no player can gain advantage through a unilateral change of strategy assuming the others do not change what they are doing”. So is there any chance to distance ourselves from the ‘Dumbing down TV Debates’. Or are we getting slave to our urge for short term escapism through the ‘Arnab…fication’ by hammered down debates to high-decibel knee-jerk reactionary talk. Rajiv Tyagi should have known this.
As if this was not enough, the new “Social dilemma” movie brings forth glaring destructive outcomes by our seemingly innocuous participation in digital social networking. So our digital social behaviour has become a contention for data mining and manipulative technologies. Sure, all the services offered by google, facebook, twitter etc. are free, but we should understand that if the product comes for free then we are the product. How many of us realize this that when we are browsing the web or enjoying a video on YouTube, we are compromising our privacy and giving away our most private data to the social media platforms, which we may even feel shy giving to our near and dear ones. Our private navigation on social media sites and our demographic and psychographic data is monitored and stored by every social media platform and is used or traded for profit, that’s the price we pay.
So let’s take a look at what google earns: Google’s ad revenue amounted to almost 134.81 billion US dollars. Google generates this revenue through google ads by targeting users based on their demographic, psychographics, digital buying behaviour etc. They stalk users through remarketing and provide their digital footprints to advertisers and website to target them for marketing their products.
Look, I’m not saying that all this capturing of user data online is wrong, but as promised by all the online platforms, this data is supposed to be used for enhancing user experience and not by selling and making profits. So it’s no more the design, but the data that defines user experience. There are many examples of companies using digital user data to enhance consumer experience, for instance Nike, Amazon, Disney and above all Netflix. I mean companies like Netflix pay lots of attention to enhancing user experience and that is probably why they are so successful beating the heat out of Blockbuster, using its user analytics to create personalized content, and even offering Netflix Original content to serve the current user interest, such as House of Cards and Netflix original movies like Calibre. Many companies who utilized there user’s digital experience have gained competitive advantage over their immediate competition and have revalorised the markets.
So there are good, bad and ugly in the digital space, but as more and more digital natives are increasing by number, we are left to our own devices to protect our privacy. Privacy has become a rare commodity as many companies have all the information about your age, family, income, address, interest, current location etc. So all your phone numbers, email IDs, Aadhar card details and PAN card are valuable information for companies through which they can sell you more products and services. Or serve you ads that are highly relevant to your demographics and preferences.
Who’s to protect yourself from such dumbing down? You, of course. By being discrete. After all, no platform puts a gun to your head. In fact, they get a legally defensible disclaimer and acceptance of usage terms from you.
Protect your privacy
The more information you share about yourself the more you become vulnerable to digital targeting. Make sure you do not fill in your social media profiles or any other forms to the ‘T’ as this will make you succumb to becoming a product to the marketers.
Think twice before sharing your Aadhar Card & Pan Card information
Don’t even share your last 4 digits of your card numbers (except your bank) as people might steal your identity. If people have your last 4 digits of your cards and your birth date then it’s not difficult for them to find out the entire card number.
Turn on private browsing
All major browsers like Chrome, Safari etc have a feature called ‘Private Browsing’. Turn it on and it will delete your browsing history, cookies and any temporary online files after you close the browser window.
Use strong and unique password
This is very important as it is even recommended by many sites and shows you the power of your password. So make sure that you use a strong, complex and unique password; not something based on your first name, last name, date, month or year of birth.
You can clear your browsing history, cookies, cache and more manually on your browser as shown below for Chrome:
Use two factor authentication
So you can login by verifying your account login through your password and a passcode sent on your phone by facebook, google, Apple, Bank Accounts etc. So two factor authentication protects your account from others.
Cash on delivery
Beware the company you are ordering product or services might be selling your online purchase data by area code and then the advertisers can target those staying in that area code for their product and services. So make sure that wherever possible, order on cash on delivery (COD).
Password security questions
Remember do not put real information as your password can be hacked. So give fictitious answers to questions like “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What’s your pet name”.
Social media algorithms driven by Artificial Intelligence are trying to prove that they are smarter than us but it’s time to prove them otherwise. Only then you can prevent hounding by technology logics and policies. Else, you are doomed.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.