In early 2018, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, billionaire investor George Soros argued that online tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, are quickly ruining society as we know it today. Soros argued that these companies are so large and so powerful that they dictate how the average person thinks and behaves by controlling the media that they see. People are unaware that this is even occurring. After all, they didn’t change anything that they’re doing. They just login to sites and skim through their news feeds, picking and choosing what items to view in more detail. Soros says that although people may not even know what’s going on, it’s a troubling development and is quickly spreading throughout the world. Soros further argues that these companies are increasingly redirecting users’ attention towards their own commercial motives, fueling an addiction to the platforms in which they operate.
Could a company really put ideas in your head? Could a social media site really tell you what food you should eat, or what clothes you should wear? Of course they could. The same way that retailers tell people what clothes to wear during thirty-second intermissions of popular television shows. Although I’m not arguing with or against George Soros, his comments made me think more about the topic. Surely if so much bad is being done online at the macro level by these tech titans that there must be an opportunity to improve at the micro level. Although we may not be able to influence the advertisements that we see online, we do have the option of modifying much of the personal content that meets our own eyes.
In an era when our personal and business networks are online rather than in-person, it’s more important than ever to think about who we surround ourselves with. It’s been well researched and documented that the company a person keeps will in turn shape that person, for better or for worse, one day at a time. Want to get better at a certain sport? Compete against people who are at a level above yours. Want your children to excel in school instead of being mediocre? Try to get them to befriend others who place a high importance on their education or enroll them in study groups where the focus is on achieving better grades. This same theory applies to most aspects in life. Unfortunately, the reverse also holds true.
How many times have you heard of an adolescent getting into trouble growing up simply because they “ran with the wrong crowd?” It’s no secret that if little Timmy is hanging out with kids who are skipping class and shoplifting that little Timmy is predisposed to behaving this way in the not-so-distant future.
It’s been said that you are the average of your five closest friends. This is because over time, your closest friends that you spend the most amount of time with will slowly shape you. They will shape everything about you, from your ideas and emotions to your body language and appearance. Nowadays, however, more and more of our time is being spent online with acquaintances, through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other platforms. This time spent online with others is just as important as time that is spent sitting next to someone at a coffee shop. The problem though, is that most people aren’t as selective online as they are in the real world as to who they will let enter their lives. Oftentimes it’s even considered cool to have a high quantity of followers.
If you want to be successful going forward, then surround yourself with successful people. Interested in investing at a higher level? Find others who are good in this space and spend time with them. In a physical sense this can be difficult depending on where you live and what your aspirations are. After all, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett rarely respond to the general public’s requests to hang out (I know, I tried). But through online networks it’s much easier to get close to people and, more importantly, their ideas. Follow other bloggers who share your interests. Bookmark certain sites that provide high quality content. Online social networks are catching a bad rap lately, and for good reason, people are spending countless hours every week in unproductive ways. It’s ironic though that this same dark web that is destroying America and shaping how we think is also offering up a world of opportunity. No longer is surrounding yourself in good company limited from a physical standpoint. An adolescent growing up in Queensbridge New York is just as able to join an online chess club as an adolescent in Del Mar, California. If you have an interest that would have been stifled in the past due to location, the connectedness of online platforms is quickly allowing people to pursue those interests no matter where they live. By no means are the barriers of geographical location eliminated, it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Rethinking how I view social media platforms has worked wonders for me. Earlier this year I purged my twitter account of users whose feeds I didn’t find supportive of my values and interests going forward. I also added many users who are known to be successful and hard working. Now when I login I see thought inspiring posts by other like-minded individuals. I may not find every post to be awe inspiring, but I’ve at least limited the petty, closed minded opinions of many. I’ve noticed that even though it’s only been several months since updating my online contacts, I’ve found that my thoughts are now more long-term focused and full of value. It’s time that people focus more on the quality of the people that they follow and interact with online rather than just the quantity.
So, the next time you go to comment on that post claiming that Justin Bieber tried to get his pilot high, or that President Trump and Vladimir Putin are in cahoots, consider the person that you’re responding to and question whether you’d even give them the time of day in real life. If you wouldn’t, maybe hit cancel on that lengthy rebuttal that won’t add value to your life and go to Financial Fixation or Forbes and read something worthy of your invaluable time.