The famous quote from Lord Acton—“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”—is a good guide to compiling a list of the companies that are likely to need policing. The list is pretty short—Amazon, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Twitter, and Uber (perhaps). And the effect on humankind (especially children) is pretty severe. Amazon is now so large and powerful that it is in danger of being prosecuted under the antitrust laws.
Fortunately, a handful of Silicon Valley notables have become activist vigilantes. And they are aiming at kids to use their smartphones for healthy purposes rather than wasting time on useless social apps.
Mark Twain’s 1897 quote had it right: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” One possible Truth in the current fracas involving Russians, Trump’s campaign team for the 2016 presidential election, and social network companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter is that this is an early example of wars that are fought by hackers and the Internet rather than soldiers and guns. Numerous semi-fiction books could be written or movies created about this craziness. One possible plot is that the Russians knew how unusual (AKA weird) Donald Trump is, and preferred him to Hillary Clinton as president because they could exploit that unusualness (AKA weirdness). A bunch of congresspeople are calling for regulation of these giant Internet-based companies. So are the media, who are far more regulated than Facebook, Google, and Twitter. These are crazy times, and the Russians and other enemy nations must be enjoying all the gyrations that the US is going through.
Modern technology—especially all things enabled by the Internet—continues to produce miracles that could only be fantasized about a few short years ago. Among those miracles is a whole family of social networks, all of which offer near-instantaneously gratification. One can debate the extent of benefits offered by each of the social networks, but the billion-plus active Facebook users strongly implies that THEY believe in the benefits. And there are continuing examples where people can connect with their loved ones despite disasters, or just stay in touch simply and quickly. We wonder, however, if Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, and their ilk are in the same league. The fact that the small amount of content (regardless of how clever it is) leaves as fast as it arrives suggests that it doesn’t have lasting value. In fact, this lack of permanance probably is a GOOD thing for many of the teenagers who are a considerable portion of the recipients. But actually, it appears that more and more teenagers are choosing to communicate in person, so it may be that they are tiring of the high volume of stuff with little lasting value.