Toward the end of my interview with today’s guest, Dr. Ciarán McMahon, I asked if there were any surprises as he did the research for his book, The Pyschology of Social Media. First, he said he was shocked to discover that there was no previous book on the psychology of social media.
It was my turn to be surprised by his second answer to that question! He said that he was surprised to see that privacy issues are still swirling around Facebook after 10 or 12 years.
I have to say I’m not surprised by this at all. After all, Facebook has strong financial incentives NOT to resolve privacy issues inasmuch as selling our data is a major part of their business model. In our interview he also evinces more faith in government regulation than I’m able to muster. It might be the difference between living Ireland compared to the U.S. at this particular point in time. We still have inadequate gun control. School shootings are still the norm. Police still shoot young black men. Money still controls our elections. Women still don’t have full economic equality. And so on!
I have to admit that I’m more emotionally reactive than my guest when thinking about the dark side of social media. As an academic historian and philosopher of technology, he’s been trained to carefully examine all the data and to withhold judgment until all the data is in. This is not to criticize him. It’s important that we have sober minded, disciplined scientists. If I’m honest, critical thinking is not my strongest suit.It’s because of Dr. McMahon’s intellectual stance that I can highly recommend his book to you. As you heard me say, I really admire that he was able to tame his topic as he much as he has, given the wild velocity of the social media phenomenon and the range of psychological impacts on us all. He does have concerns which he gives voice to in the book but mostly, I think, he does his best to be judgment free and to report the facts of the social media phenomenon. His book is well considered and does a good job of describing the social media landscape. Plus, he tells me it’s the only book on the psychology of social media!