Corporations have built a hall of one-way mirrors: from the inside, you can see only apps, web pages, ads, and yourself reflected by social media. But in the shadows behind the glass, trackers quietly take notes on nearly everything you do. These trackers are not omniscient, but they are widespread and indiscriminate. The data they collect and derive is not perfect, but it is nevertheless extremely sensitive.
A data-snorting company can just make low bids to ensure it never wins while pocketing your data for nothing. This is a flaw in the implied deal where you trade data for benefits.
You can limit what you give away by blocking tracking cookies. Unfortunately, you can still be tracked by other techniques. These include web beacons, browser fingerprinting and behavioural data such as mouse movements, pauses and clicks, or sweeps and taps.
Tor, the original anti-surveillance browser, is based on an old, heavily modified version of Firefox.
Most other browsers are now, like Chrome, based on Google’s open source Chromium. Once enough web developers started coding for Chrome instead of for open standards, it became arduous and expensive to sustain alternative browser engines. Chromium-based browsers now include Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, the Epic Privacy Browser and next year’s new Microsoft Edge.
For abstainers, breaking up with Facebook freed up about an hour a day, on average, and more than twice that for the heaviest users.
research led by Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has found that high levels of passive browsing on social media predict lowered moods, compared to more active engagement.
According to San Jose State University researcher Ziming Lu, this is typical “screen-based reading behavior,” with more time spent browsing, scanning and skimming than in-depth reading. As reading experiences move online, experts have been exploring how reading from a screen may be changing our brains. Reading expert Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, has voiced concerns that digital reading will negatively affect the brain’s ability to read deeply for sophisticated understanding, something that Nicholas Carr also explored in his book, The Shallows. Teachers are trying to steer students toward digital reading strategies that practice deep reading, and nine out of ten parents say that having their children read paper books is important to them.
“Digital reading is good in some ways, and bad in others,” he said: in other words, it’s complicated.
According to Julie Coiro, a reading researcher at the University of Rhode Island, moving from digital to paper and back again is only a piece of the attention puzzle: the larger and more pressing issue is how reading online is taxing kids’ attention. Online reading, Coiro noticed, complicates the comprehension process “a million-fold.”
Each time a student reads online content, Coiro said, they are faced with almost limitless input and decisions, including images, video and multiple hyperlinks that lead to even more information. As kids navigate a website, they must constantly ask themselves: is this the information I’m looking for?
Roughly half of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, according to research from Pew. About the same proportion of teens report taking steps to limit their use of the devices. Another survey found that about two-thirds of parents also worry their children spend too much time in front of screens; nearly 60% of parents report setting screen time restrictions for their children. The findings come as some technology companies introduce features to cut back on phone addiction.
Amid roiling debates about the impact of screen time on teenagers, roughly half of those ages 13 to 17 are themselves worried they spend too much time on their cellphones. Some 52% of U.S. teens report taking steps to cut back on their mobile phone use, and similar shares have tried to limit their use of social media (57%) or video games (58%), a new Pew Research Center survey finds.
Overall, 56% of teens associate the absence of their cellphone with at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious. Additionally, girls are more likely than boys to feel anxious or lonely without their cellphone.
The vast majority of teens in the United States have access to a smartphone, and 45% are online on a near constant basis. The ubiquity of social media and cellphones and other devices in teens’ lives has fueled heated discussions over the effects of excessive screen time and parents’ role in limiting teens’ screen exposure. In recent months, many major technology companies, including Google and Apple, have announced new products aimed at helping adults and teens monitor and manage their online usage.
Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to say they spend too much time on social media (47% vs. 35%).
Meanwhile, 31% of teens say they lose focus in class because they are checking their cellphone – though just 8% say this often happens to them, and 38% say it never does.
Girls are more likely than boys to express feelings of anxiety (by a 49% to 35% margin) and loneliness (by a 32% to 20% margin) when they do not have their phone with them.
Social media platforms are using the same techniques as gambling firms to create psychological dependencies and ingrain their products in the lives of their users, experts warn.
atasha Schüll, the author of Addiction by Design, which reported how slot machines and other systems are designed to lock users into a cycle of addiction.
Whether it’s Snapchat streaks, Facebook photo-scrolling, or playing CandyCrush, Schüll explained, you get drawn into “ludic loops” or repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation and feedback — and the rewards are just enough to keep you going.
However, the number of monthly active users of Facebook hit 2.13 billion earlier this year, up 14% from a year ago. Despite the furore around its data privacy issues, the social media monolith posted record revenues for the first quarter of 2018, making $11.97bn, up 49% on last year.