We often joke that trade journals like Engineering & Mining Journal (E&MJ) are the antidote for “fake news,” but it’s true. Most engineers are problem solvers and they have been trained to think critically. We evaluate the problem rationally and analyze the facts and try to make an objective decision. Our right-brained friends often consider us to be skeptical and annoyingly logical. Using data, models and critical paths, a good engineer can tell management when, why and how with a fairly high level of precision.
Usually engineers can apply those same inherent traits outside their work life with a great deal of success. What would happen if you found the cards were stacked against you? What if you found that some of the information you were being fed was fictitious? What would you think if you, your friends and your family were being played? It’s happening, it’s unfair and it’s kind of scary.
A new docudrama, The Social Dilemma, is being distributed on Netflix. It details the dark side of social media and it shines a light on some of the damaging effects it is having on society. The film contains firsthand interviews with former executives from the tech industry who talk about how the platforms have been designed to entice use to the point of addiction, the negative impact it’s having on mental health, and the role it plays in spreading conspiracy theories. They explain how the big tech firms are gaining financially through data mining and surveillance capitalism. Throughout the piece, the executives say this was not their intention when they built these platforms.
One of the problems is that people naturally gravitate toward news sources that tell them what they want to hear. It doesn’t help that most sources today have become biased. The algorithms detect this and feed similar information to the user’s devices. The boomers are somewhat immune to this as the social media adoption levels are not as intense, but Generations X, Y and Z are highly-engaged. Our youngest generation will grow up with these platforms from adolescence onward.
The use of social media will continue to grow and the best way to solve this problem is to educate those around us. As leaders, we need to set examples with constructive dialog and, if needed, step up and diffuse the situation. Already, we see users policing LinkedIn groups, telling other users to take down their biased or explicit content. Social media users should always investigate the source.
We believe we can use our social media platforms for good. E&MJ’s followers on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have grown substantially in the last few years. As the leading publisher of mining trade journals, we promise to do
our part, too. Over the years, we have earned your respect as a trustworthy source. We will strive to deliver the most useful information objectively. Enjoy this edition of E&MJ.