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Yep, the 21st Century

Written by: Luana Mayer

From: São Paulo, Brazil

Edited by: Sophia Sprackling

Ever wondered why sensational articles with dramatic headlines or claims that rouse our emotions pop up in our Instagram feed? Ever noticed that when discussing with your aunt about a product you want to buy, it later appears as an advertisement on a random website? Well, that is the current tech industry. I can not even count how many times I was researching an interesting travel destination, a movie, a book, and suddenly, it was the top advertisement on my page. 

Consider how long you spend using your cell phones and computer - it is absurd. According to The Guardian, in research made by Rescue Time, people who have Android generally spend three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. Whereas, ABC News found that an average teenager spends more than seven hours staring at a screen. Being addicted to devices is posing a threat not only to our mental health but to our privacy. A study made by the Wall Street Journal found that 87% of websites have trackers on, looking at every move we make. Technological advancements have made possible the use of algorithms to gather our personal information and later boost it to the top of the newsfeed. 

The 21st century is now classified as a time of big data and advanced information technology, with companies turning us, consumers, into the product being sold. Our attention, how long we spend connected - our every move - is being competed in the markets. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok, are all striving to see how long they can keep us engaged in their apps. As Tristan Harris, the president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology stated, “If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.”  Indeed, the market needs to know what to sell to be successful. Harvard Business School said “you have to have great predictions,” thus, data is needed. Advertisements try to be as thriving as possible, but they need us in order to thrive. They need our personal data: what we fancy, what we don’t like, how we are feeling, how we become more absorbed in social media, all to better predict our actions.

Due to companies using us as subjects, we have increased the time we spend online. Social media is making children depressed. An era of disinformation is being established, polarization is stronger than ever, and finally, our own freedom of want and privacy is being threatened by surveillance capitalism - capitalism that is profiting from the places we go, gathering every bit of our personal data. Information that should be kept confidential is being challenged by the progress of this digital age.                

You may be wondering, what can I do to avoid this constant privacy peril? One will not escape this scenario, as we live and conform to society’s rules. Nonetheless, we can review some apps on our phones, examine the domain of the websites to see their trustworthiness, and recognize sources’ assumptions, values, and selection of facts. Also, you must always check twice for the information acquired and seek to gain awareness of which content targets you personally, due to your digital profile, the posts you liked, purchases, comments, etc. Look at all the apps that use your location, for instance, and try to limit your time online. All will aid in your mental health and keep data more secure.

Tech Article: 21st century: Feature Story
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