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Making Social Media Safe for Everyone
President Biden is right to call out social media companies for targeting and harming young people
Sree’s newsletter is produced with Zach Peterson (@zachprague), with the Digimentors Tech Tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob). Many thanks to our sponsor, Armory Square Ventures. Cartoon by Christopher Weyant @ChristophWeyant.
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PRESIDENT BIDEN CALLED OUT SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES in his State of the Union address last week, and we should all take notice.
Here is the brief clip in which he outlines his ideas for limiting what social media companies can do with data from children’s social media usage.
This is a good step, and it’s important that the president would use a platform like this to discuss the issue. It was also near the end of the speech and lasted just a few seconds. There are, of course, some legislative ways to make social media safer — although I’m not sure that age restrictions would really do much, and data collection rules have proven largely toothless.
It’s easy to agree with broad statements like this one from Colorado Senator Mike Bennet:
Speaking as a parent who’s raised three daughters in this era, we certainly have not agreed to run a science experiment on our children with machine learning algorithms, the effects of which almost no employees at the social media companies themselves even understand.
But, where does that get us? Algorithmic feeds tend to produce adverse effects — the “if it bleeds, it leads” of the modern age for sure — but, even if Meta were banned from collecting data on users between the ages of 15 and 18, it would do essentially nothing to curb any of social media’s real ills.
Depriving some global brand of ad-targeting data just means that teenagers won’t see ads for those things, and ads are not the problem. The problems are bullying, body- and image-shaming, and other things that are happening with and among real people in the real world. Facebook, Instagram, and independent researchers have known for years that their platforms can cause deep, lasting negative mental health effects on young people.
This short video from Stanford University does a great job of breaking down exactly what social media does to our brains, why it’s addictive, and how social comparison is the real fuel of the anxiety fire.
The healthiest choice is probably something between quitting social media outright and limiting social media access to certain times for specific (short) amounts of time. But, I think it’s worth considering the reality for most modern teenagers — all, or close to all, of their friends are very likely not going to be subject to those same rules, they may suffer socially because of them, and we may just make it worse.
The answer, to me, starts at home. We, as parents, aunts and uncles, mentors, and role models, need to instill respect and empathy in our children and the young people around us. We need to teach them that bullying is wrong, be it in the hallway, on the timeline, and in the group chat.
According to research from Pew, conducted in 2022, teens offered a wide range of responses to questions about their social media usage and the effects of it. Many, and in some cases most of them, actually see social media as a largely positive aspect of their lives. These digital spaces let them connect with friends, find wider communities around their beliefs and interests, and it offers an emotional outlet they may not have offline. Interestingly (and, perhaps, predictably) there is some dissonance. There’s definitely a sort of “I’m fine with social media, but other people are suffering because of it” thing going on.
It’s not hard to see the parallels for us adults. Our “always on” world is not exclusive to certain age groups — it’s affecting all of us. As such, all of us need to band together to get ourselves right. Logging off for meaningful periods of time, regularly, may indeed be a good place to start. So are turning off notifications and occasionally grayscaling your phone. But, digital life is here to stay, and we simply need to take control of it. We can blame social media companies all we want — and they certainly deserve some blame — but ultimately, we’re the ones agreeing to the terms of service (most of the time, without even reading them). We’re the ones posting. And, we’re the ones setting examples for the generations coming after us.
Thank you for the incredible response to last week’s essay that Zach and I wrote about losing our mothers at 18 and 52 respectively. Your comments, notes and stories showed us that you are not alone. 🙏
A Message from Armory Square Ventures
We thank our friends at @Preqin this week for including Armory Square Ventures in their 2023 global private equity league tables.
The company distills industry-leading data for the alternatives industry and ranked us #6 for a 2018 investment we made in portfolio company ACV Auctions. More here on that founding story.
ACV Auctions's trajectory was a long one, certainly. For us it was also a milestone and marker reaffirming our belief that great companies can be built outside the major hubs. We still believe that. More here on a new partner who recently joined us and how we're preparing for the launch of our third fund.
Onward + Until next time,
Find + follow us at @ArmorySV
Great job alert from our friends at UN Peackeeping
Digimentors Tech Tip: The OnePlus 11 5G is Impressive Inside & Out
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.
It’s that time of year again: Smartphone makers are rolling out new units and OnePlus aims not to get left behind with the debut of the OnePlus 11 5G, an Android powerhouse with hardware which holds up well against more expensive competition.
The OnePlus 11 5G looks sleek with its bright 6.7-inch, 120Hz, 2K AMOLED display on the front and three-lens Hasselblad camera array on the back, but it’s what’s sandwiched in between that OnePlus highlighted in its recent launch event in New Delhi.
Instead of focusing only on the OnePlus 11 5G’s impressive photo and video capabilities, OnePlus promoted the patented technologies and other innovations built into its new flagship phone.
For example, the OnePlus 11 5G comes with up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but it also comes with the company’s RAM-Vita, a new artificial-intelligence-based technology which speeds up app performance. Not only does the system set aside memory for the most-used apps, but it also reduces the amount of memory used by the apps, thus allowing as many as 44 apps to run in the background, according to OnePlus.
“It’s time to say goodbye to app kills and restarts,” said Tuomas Lampen, OnePlus head of strategy for the EU during the Feb. 7 launch event.
The OnePlus 11 uses Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 main processor chipset, the same used by competing flagship Android smartphones. At a pixel density of 525 pixels per inch, the OnePlus 11 5G’s 6.7-inch screen is sharper than the 6.7-inch screen on the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (460ppi) and the 6.8-inch display on Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra (500ppi).
Its sizeable 5,000 mAh battery promises long battery life, but power use is reduced by technology which lowers the screen’s refresh rate when 120Hz isn’t needed. The battery can be charged in as fast as 27 minutes using an 80-watt charger, according to OnePlus.
The OnePlus 11 5G is powered by the Oxygen 13 operating system, which is built on top of Google’s Android 13 software. Using Oxygen allows OnePlus to perform its own hardware performance tweaks like one which speeds up data transfers between the Snapdragon main processor and memory.
The rear Hasselblad camera array includes a 50MP f/1.8 main camera with optical image stabilization, a 32MP portrait camera and a 48MP ultrawide camera with a 115-degree field of vision while the front of the phone has a 16MP selfie camera.
The OnePlus 11 5G is available for preorders in Titan Black or Emerald Green at $699 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and $799 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
But OnePlus isn’t done yet: It promised a peek at a “OnePlus 11 Concept” at the upcoming Mobile World Congress mobile technology conference in Barcelona, Spain.
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