The hidden costs of social media, and optimizing employees' time, is discussed by Jason Hiner, Global editor-in-chief, TechRepublic, and TechRepublic Senior Producer Dan Patterson. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Dan Patterson: 900 is our magic number today. That is the dollar-cost per-month of using social media while at work. What is the value? You may be watching this, or listening to this, and say $900 a month? I don't make $900 a month, let alone have that to lose in one-hour per-workday. Look, I based that figure on a $45-an-hour entry level/mid-level developer position. We talk about that, because developers are those who are creating these social networks.
The question remains for almost everyone. I'd bet people will nod along with a lot of these stories, and we can keep the dialogue going. What is the value? And the answer is nuanced, because clearly as we've discussed here, there is tremendous value to social media and social networks. These networks aren't static, they do evolve, and they evolve with us. They're also ripe for exploitation. And they're ripe for emotional and intellectual exploitation. It may be just the incumbent upon all of us to figure out what am I getting out of this? What types of conversations am I having here and where can I put my energy? Maybe that is on social media. Maybe it's splitting the time I spend on social, or, just being more thoughtful about it.
Jason, I wonder if we could close with another rhetorical question, and that is the looming story of smartphone addiction. We know that Apple is releasing — in the next version of iOs — tools that will allow you to monitor your social media usage. Now Apple's answer to the rhetorical question what is the value? And Facebook's answer and Twitter's answer is multiples of billions of dollars.
SEE: Social media policy (Tech Pro Research)
These questions we have here are great for us to consider as human beings, as corporations, these technology companies have profited tremendously in the last decade, from our use of smartphones and social media.
Jason, take us out, help us understand smartphones and the role in the growth of social over the next phase, the next era. Is this a made-up problem, or is this something that every device manufacturer, every tech company, will simply have to contend with?
Jason Hiner: Yes. Every company, every app maker, every hardware maker, every part of the mobile ecosystem, web apps — all of these things are going to have to think about this issue of optimizing people's time. Despite the calls to get rid of, or stop using these things... I saw at a conference recently, how many people were attracted to that Mobile World Congress in Barcelona: How many people were attracted to a flip phone that had battery life of a week? They were like I really want to take one of these things when I go on vacation so I don't even have to be bothered when I'm on vacation.
It speaks to the fact that there is this thirst to get back to optimizing our time. All of the vendors are going to have to think about this. All of them are thinking about helping people — not waste their time — but get at the things that have the most value to them. That in truth, that's where this idea of the algorithm came about, to optimize people's time.
Obviously, it has ways it can run amuck. As it did during the election, during the battle over fake news, during times when people have manipulated this algorithm to get something in front of people to get emotional reactions, to essentially manipulate them in some very unpleasant ways.
SEE: Streaming media policy (Tech Pro Research)
What we need is all of these companies to think about this idea about helping people optimizing their time. Give them the things, and servicing the things that provide them the most value, and giving them the option to opt in to some of those things, to have some transparency around seeing how they are being optimized by the platform. Then have the opportunity to then have say in that, as well. That's where we're getting to.
It's great to have Facebook, the initial idea was good, it was great that Facebook would just service you the most relevant things. The next stage is people seeing what Facebook thinks you want to see, seeing that list, understanding the algorithm and then being able to manipulate it themselves. The same will be true of the way the phone will surface and filter things for you. As well as any algorithm, any app, any bit of machine learning that is trying to understand you and in one sense also has the power to manipulate you. You being able to have some transparency and some visibility into that. Being able to have a say. That's the next stage.
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Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.