You’ve almost definitely seen the adverts before. Your YouTube videos might be preceded by adverts of energetic young men showing off their flashy car or house before proceeding to tell you they got rich from social media marketing and you can too.
Scrolling down your newsfeed, you’re likely to have come across pictures of well groomed people edited onto glossy backgrounds promising you the secrets of social media marketing or maybe even offering to be your personal tutor.
This can all sound very promising and tempting but in reality there’s almost no chance that you know anyone who’s got rich from this, or made any significant income. These “opportunities” are sold as luxury that can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of education or capital. If this were to be true, clearly no one would be doing their day job.
Clearly, none of it is true. The world doesn’t have an influx of commerce messiahs waiting for people to make rich. A new strain of scammer has emerged though, and they’re sending people towards corporate behemoths who are even better prepared to take money.
When some poor unsuspecting punter gets tricked into giving these people some of their hard-earned cash, they become part of a greater flow of individuals who are leaning towards paying Facebook and co to advertise. Whereas traditionally you might expect well-funded companies to be churning the revenue machines of these advertising platforms, an increasing portion of that revenue is now coming from working people with little to no history or education in business.
The idea that anyone can sign in and get to grips with advertising is a tempting one, and that temptation is itself being advertised more and more.
These social media sites have their problems: their sapping of attention, the addictive nature of the scroll mechanism, their political impact. What has generally been assumed though is that they’re free to use and are funded by corporate partnerships.
The manipulative nature of these sites has now started reaching into the average person’s pockets though. The American Dream is something we’re encouraged to chase from a young age, and in times of a global economic slowdown its understandable that people struggling to make ends meet are enticed by the idea that their last $100 could be turned into $200.
With the addictive scrolling mechanics and the allure of a quick financial fix, social media is heading down a similar ethically murky path to the one that the betting industry follows. These programmes’ potential to connect people is unprecedented and should be respected.
Their ability to ensnare users in whatever is presented to them is a large show of power. If this power were to be used responsibly, it wouldn’t require concern. Left untethered, social media threatens to fall into the same realm that in-game purchase video games have started to breach. To keep vulnerable people safe from the American Dream manipulation, action should be taken sooner rather than later.