I never believed that I would have the voice or the platform to express my thoughts and I still find it hard to believe. So often in life, I’ve instinctively placed myself in the unworthy or undeserving category. “Someone else would be better at that”, “someone else would do a better job”. What I’m slowly figuring out is that I am able to fulfil a role of this magnitude without resorting to my usual strategy. Well, here I am ladies and gentlemen, in the thick of it, no backing down now.
I’ve often taken for granted the ability to say and do what I want in this free society. Clearly others have not. The volume of lies and misconception that grace the news feeds we so regularly and brainlessly scroll is muddying the waters. Determining facts and falsehoods is becoming a much harder task for our generation as our exposure to them increases. With each new site, the insidious terms and conditions of which we unflinchingly agree to, we have each become a series of data points for advertisers and propaganda rather than genuine human beings.
From what I know your phone isn’t listening to you; the freaky ads you see for the thing you were just thinking about are basically a really good guess. Internet giants like Google and Facebook use what you search for and what you click on to create targeted advertisements. This helps them bring in more profit as you are slowly exploited.
The scary thing is this has attracted interest from political regimes. These regimes will pay social media sites to send targeted advertisements to those with a specific data set. For instance, if the data Facebook has gathered against you indicates that you were able to be influenced, a “swing voter” in an upcoming election, a political party could pay for advertisements and other propaganda to “randomly turn up” in your feed. These advertisements are designed to manipulate you into using your vote to support their ideals. There can be no true democracy in a world where this weapons-grade propaganda is used to influence people on a mass scale. Political regimes are now buying votes. Vital referendums and elections such as the 2016 US election and Brexit were influenced heavily by targeted and manipulative propaganda.
What I hope to achieve by writing this you, the reader, walks away with the desire to think much more critically about the world we live in. Don’t believe whatever you’re told or whatever you read. Do your own research, make sure the research is well founded. In a time where free and critical thinking is neither encouraged or rewarding it has never been a more essential skill in this Golden Age of the Lie.
The third week of university is an interesting time. The cracks are beginning to show. Most people, including me, are behind in classes and are in denial about the amount of free time they have to catch up on them. The freshers are regretting not getting that apprenticeship their old man organised for them. For those in this predicament, I offer my opinion…
University is what you make it. That much has been clear to me for the last week or two despite my 2 years behind the books. You have the opportunity to receive something of value here. So I say to the confused fresher in College Hall, the battling second year in their first hard class or the third year in charge of a magazine: you’re here now. Expect it to be hard. Relish this short period of time. Harry, signing off.