This is a huge issue across social media, and not enough attention us being devoted to it.

"Engagement" is a nice euphemism that covers a spectrum from benign interest to harmful addiction, and social media companies show a pointed public disinterest in teasing out which it is.
For companies dealing in addictive activities like like drinking, gambling and smoking, a lot of the revenue is driven by the most "engaged" segment of their customer base — addicts.
Social media companies are the same, and if you look through their stock market filings and advice for third-party developers they'll often say explicitly that it's the most "engaged" users who'll drive revenues.
Here's Roblox giving tips to developers on how to drive engagement in their mostly preteen user base:
I wrote about this a few months ago.

Roblox is a good example, with average user time edging closer to levels associated with problematic usage that damages socialisation etc:…
Remember those are *averages*, so at the tail end of the curve there will in all likelihood be tens or hundreds of thousands who are exhibiting full-blown addictive behaviour.
I don't think that this calls for a ban on social media, any more than cigarette or alcohol or gambling addictions call for a ban on the purveyors of those products.

But it would be good if social media companies acknowledged these risks the way those other companies do.
They should put out — their investors should demand — much more comprehensive data on how much time their users are spending on their apps. They should use the wealth of information they are collecting to identify and limit addictive behaviour, even if it costs them revenue.
They should stop hiding behind "engagement" and deal much more with the real issues on that spectrum between benign interest and problematic addiction.

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More from @davidfickling

29 Aug
RIP Lee Perry.

It's ridiculous how much of my favourite music he produced or appeared on.

But this may be my favourite memory:
Read 4 tweets
27 Aug
One genuinely heartening thing out there is the rate of vaccine uptake in NSW now.

At the rate we hit over the past week (7.6% took a first dose from 19 to 26 August), we should be about a week away from the point when 70% of the over-16 population has a first dose in them.
That's obviously still at least a month away from double-dosed and with immunity built up, for even Pfizer. Longer for AstraZeneca given the longer gap between doses.

Still, people are rushing out to get the jabs once they've been made available to them in sufficient numbers.
This is what makes the hectoring tone from government all the more infuriating. There doesn't look to be much hesitancy at this point from where I'm sitting.
Read 4 tweets
25 Jul
The accelerating pace of climate change means the world's biggest reinsurer is already cutting back its exposure to the sort of natural disasters that have swept through China, Germany, Canada and London in recent weeks:…
Reinsurers, who provide insurance to insurance companies, are key to how the world pays for natural disasters.

They get less than 5% of the industry's premium fees but cover as much as two-thirds of its losses when catastrophes like earthquakes and cyclones strike: Image
Most of the disasters that have been in the news of late, though, aren't those large-scale cataclysms.

They're so-called "secondary perils" — smaller local events like flooding, wildfire, storms, hail. ImageImageImageImage
Read 8 tweets
23 Jul
Seeing some comments that the Zhengzhou floods are a result of cutting corners on infrastructure, which seem pretty dubious to me.
Water and flood management is, after real estate and manufacturing, by far the largest sector that China spends money on.

Fixed asset investment in water and environment is more than in transport, education and health PUT TOGETHER.…
In terms of *state* investment, China is basically a dam-building program with an army.

But flood management is hard and often counterproductive, and the Yangtze and Yellow are two of the most destructive rivers in history in terms of floods.
Read 6 tweets
20 Jul
SMH that someone who's become the world's richest man *on the basis of a logistics business* thinks our planet needs to import resources and goods from space:…
IDK is there a reason Amazon doesn't offer same-day fresh food shipping to any spot on the face of the planet?

Maybe think about that before deciding we need to start importing moon nickel.
Will there be any pollution from moving all the polluting industries to space using rockets that burn a ton of methane every second? Image
Read 4 tweets
15 Jul
Does anyone know of a good history of the German fertilizer industry in World War 1?

The Haber-Bosch process for making synthetic ammonia was invented in Germany on the eve of war, but the plants were all switched to making explosives instead of fertilizer.
Britain then blockaded German ports to prevent imports of fertilizer, causing agricultural productivity to collapse. This resulted in food riots and starvation which may have helped turned the tide of war against Germany.
Did Germany make the right choice in prioritizing ammonium nitrate explosives over ammonium nitrate fertilizers?

Could it have achieved a better outcome by trying to do both instead of focusing so heavily on explosives?
Read 4 tweets

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