We gotta talk about something serious today, folks. Artificial intelligence (AI) and social media—that’s a combo more explosive than a mesquite grill at a 4th of July barbecue. On one hand, the Big Tech tells us AI, machine learning (ML), and their algorithmic cousins will make life easier, help us be more productive, maybe even cure cancer. But set that machinery loose in the middle of the endless social media hoedown and we got ourselves a whole lot of troubles ahead.
Social media apps are designed to keep us glued to those tiny screens until our retinas burn like a summertime sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The colors may be pretty at first glance but stare too long and you’re liable to do some damage. Those flashy lights and dings when someone likes your post get the dopamine rushing through our brains. Our brains get more lit up than downtown Dallas on New Year’s Eve. The psychologists call it “variable reward” but you and I know it’s just plain addiction. No wonder folks today have the attention spans of a Jack Russell terrier chasing squirrels.
And now here comes AI to the dancehall, promising to jazz things up even more. It sashays in with its algorithms and machine learning models, offering to keep us “engaged” from dawn till dusk. It wants to learn exactly what makes us tick, what posts and videos keep us hanging around longest, so it can serve us more of that good stuff. More colorful drinks to dull our senses and keep the party going all night long. Before you know it, we’re passed out on the front lawn wondering what in the Sam Hill just happened.
See, AI don’t care about wisdom or meaning. It’s just crunching numbers, maximizing clicks and screen time. Pretty soon our brains are so overwhelmed by the constant barrage of ephemera we can’t even remember what it feels like to be present in the moment, focused like a hawk circling over an open field. Our minds get duller than a rusted spur, unable to think deeply about anything any more.
I don’t have nothing against AI, I am doing a computer science PhD working on systems for ML for goodness’ sake. But I am deeply concerned about these algorithms hijacking our attentions, keeping us distracted and addicted from dawn to dusk. We gotta tame this beast before it takes over the ranch. A few ideas how we can do it:
First, social media companies need transparency. They gotta let us know how their systems work, how they profile and target us, what they do with our data. No more shadowy stuff behind the curtain. Drag it out into the light where we can get a good look.
Second, give people control. Let folks decide how their data’s used, whether to allow personalized targeting or not. Don’t force feed it. Maybe have an option to modulate how “smart” and targeted the recommendations get, like switching to a “dumb mode”. The choice should be ours, not the tech overlords.
Third, design platforms for health. Maximizing engagement and screen time shouldn’t be the goal. These apps should help connect people in meaningful ways, not isolate them in algorithmic rabbit holes. We oughta be thinking about mental health from the start when building tech, not an afterthought. The hardware and software should encourage balance, understanding, wisdom—things that make life richer and more meaningful.
Bottom line is this. Technology is meant to improve our lives, not become our lives. We made it, so we should be able to bend it to serve our real needs as human beings. If guided rightly, AI has the great potential to help social media spread truth, connect, inform, and even inspire. But it needs kindness, compassion baked into its bones. For now it feels cold and confusing, like a snowstorm that came outta nowhere. We need shepherds who can lead these wayward technologies where they best serve humanity. Change ain’t easy but it’s high time we turn this thing around. The first step is seeing it clear.