Last year a friend of mine remarked in frustration how everybody “likes” (or “favorites”) something on social media. She would prefer if people said something once in a while through comments. I noted down her thoughts in a draft posting for the future. I’m not sure why it interested me so much, but I kept thinking about how people are so willing to give a “like”, a “thumbs up” or a “star” on a posting, but rarely take the time to write a substantive comment.
I figured it had something to do with the rapid deterioration of communication between humans. Non-verbal cues account for over 70% of communication, yet we willing dismiss this in favor of more frequent, vapid exchanges through emoji and polling buttons, an easier, faster way to say “I’m here and I care.” With so little time invested in face-to-face communication it’s no wonder we have nothing substantive to say that couldn’t be summed up with a smiley face or star rating. Now when we do use words to communicate, we need the emoji to make sure the message is interpreted properly.
A few weeks ago I was reading Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection by Jacob Silverman. All of a sudden I had a renewed interest in our pre-packaged communication methods. Turns out companies prefer when we use symbols, emoji, and polling buttons to express how we feel because it makes our moods and thoughts machine readable. This means it is easier for companies to analyze us through algorithms and big data analysis. We’ve willingly provided them with the data they need in a format they can use instantly.
Natural language is more difficult to analyze because it’s nuanced and often requires context to interpret correctly. In fact, the book discussed a service provided called “Amazon Mechanical Turks” which hires humans to interpret natural language for analysis, among other things. The tagline is “Artificial Artificial Intelligence.” Despite everything we read about the power of computers and analysis, some tasks still remain which humans are better at such as facial recognition. Humans are still more accurate in identifying a match between faces than computers. However, as long as we use symbols and emoji, and name tag all our photos, we make big data analysis of ourselves easier.