Let's start with a definition.
It is an online medium, public (in terms of being accessible to groups of people), where, unlike owner-managed websites, people contribute to creating content.
Why It's a Problem in One Sentence
If something is free, you are the product.
A Slightly Longer Explanation
Historical Background ;-)
The internet became a part of my life around 0202122, SDI, and internet cafes.
Initially, in the realm of low-transference and somewhat meeting the definition of social media, there was IRC.
During my college years and the advent of constant internet connections, several social networks emerged, such as Grono, Nasza Klasa, and phpBB by Przemek. Finally, Facebook and Twitter came along.
Initially, each of these platforms seemed like the embodiment of what a community needed: easy access and communication. However, as time passed, each platform, in order to monetize itself, began employing unsavory tactics.
The worst of these, of course, is the infinite feed, as well as profiling users to serve them targeted ads/content. Lately, there are addictive algorithms and content in the form of "short, easily digestible videos" (aka shorts/TikToks).
How I Navigate this Today
Let's divide this into before and after reading "The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads" by Tim Wu.
Before I Realized that Social Media Algorithms Are Geared Towards Our Unhappiness
Before, I had lost a few battles with dopamine-inducing loops or was frustrated with the shallowness of the content being shared, or the systems lost their informational value by showing me junk instead of updates from friends.
However, I had never really thought about what each of these algorithms was designed to do. I simply knew they were about making money.
I rebelled in various ways: I employed aggressive ad-blockers and installed many add-ons that tried to assist me. I used these systems much less.
I also managed to move a piece of some online communities to serve as a free medium for group communication.
But the tentacles of these systems still reached into my mind, and they didn't seem too harmful, except perhaps for being a little too addictive.
After I Realized that Algorithms Are Designed for Our Misery and Lack of Focus
I blocked them definitively. Physically and blatantly.
I can't access any of these systems.
What's the Deal with Targeting Misery and Lack of Focus
It's very simple. The algorithm has one goal: making money.
The algorithm quickly concluded that: 1. It profits from polarization, which is easy to provoke. 2. It profits from unhappiness and anger - also easy to provoke. 3. AND, WORST OF ALL! It profits when people are less focused.
So, these are precisely the kinds of content that are presented to us.
All of this makes various tools simply harmful to our mental (and somewhat physical) health.
What Future Do I Envision, Then?
Firstly, let's use systems that aren't designed to "destroy" us. (For example, personal websites with RSS feeds; Mastodon)
Secondly, let's vote for individuals in elections who can influence legislation so that the law allows us to fight, and the law cares for us and those who may not be aware of the above mechanisms.
Thirdly, let's disconnect ourselves from the system and encourage those around us to do the same.
And fourthly, let's just talk :-) (Contact tab)