Social Networks and Rise of Neo-Feudalism

The growth in information technology has influenced the development of diverse social networks to aid communication and social connection. However, the huge amount of data that is provided by the users has triggered the formation of neo-feudalism, digital feudalism. Digital feudalism is influenced by the huge amount of control that social networks have in society. Although social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have promoted the flow of information, they are increasingly becoming the neo-lords in the emerging feudalism system.

Feudalism is a system of government that was extensively applied in the 5th century before the rise of the Roman Empire. Kotkin (2020) states that the Feudalism system of government is characterized by the presence of few elites controlling over the majority who were peasants. The elites held a disproportionately huge amount of wealth, social status, and political power, which enable them to sustain their position in society. On the other hand, the peasants were a group of poor people that worked for the elites in addition to providing them with security in exchange to live on the extensive pieces of land owned by the elites. Kotkin (2020) adds that the elites influenced the government, which was largely composed of members of the elite class, to ratify strict laws that aimed at cementing the peasants in their poor position. This system of government was extremely oppressive because it favored the elites at the expense of the poor.

The extensive growth in the number of active users of social networks is considerably reverting the world to Feudalism but in a whole different way. A good example is Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat, which have a population of active users of over 2.8 billion, 187 million, and 1.17 billion users. With the growing internet connectivity and the presence of easily affordable smartphones, the number of users of social networks is likely to significantly increase. Although social networks provide users with an opportunity to post content, share, and joy access to information, their influence in increasing becoming oppressive.

Firstly, social networks largely rely on the data that is shared by the users. This aspect makes the social networks have a considerable advantage over the users because they can easily manipulate how they interact. Although social networks argue that the data provided by the users is meant to promote their experience, the companies use data to their advantage by growing their revenue. For instance, it is through the presence of a huge amount of data that companies are able to use targeting methods in marketing. The huge data stored by social networks help them in advertisement therefore extensively increase their wealth.

Wealth inequality in the age social networks is another characteristic that connects the social to feudalism. The constant expansion and the increase in the number of people using social networks have led to an increase in the earnings of its owners. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook is worth $95.5 billion, which increased from $40.8 billion between March to August 2020 (Collins & Ocampo, 2020). The huge amount of earnings by the social networks is not reflected among the users.

Like the elites, the sharp growth of social networks has enabled social media companies to start influencing politics in their favor. Lin (2021) posits that social networks have gained a noticeably high influence in the installation of top government leaders, and also influence policymakers in making favorable laws. A good example of a direct influence on politics occurred was 2016, whereby a British company, Cambridge analytical was alleged to have influenced the voters in favor of Donald Trump. On the same note, social networks indirectly influence decisions through lobbying. For instance, from 1998 to 2012, social digital media companies, including Email; Facebook; Wechat; Twitter; Linked In; and Reddit spent a combined of approximately $1.44 billion on registered lobbyists (Lin, 2021). The political influence of social network operations puts users at a disadvantage, especially on matters of privacy.

Another fundamental aspect about the feudal system was its suppression of the rights of the peasants. The structure of the feudal system was largely hierarchical whereby the King was at the top, and the owner of the entire land. The kind selected nobble men or Lords whom he gave portions of land for their top leadership service. After the Lords, the next in hierarchy were knights who worked as military men for providing security. With the peasants at the lowest in the social hierarchy, they were oppressed and suppressed. In the same way, the social media is increasingly taking way freedom of expression and controlling the society albeit in a subtle way. In the observation by Li et al. (2016), the unregulated social network space has been invaded by authoritarian regimes that use the platforms to misinform and spread an unverified news in a bid to put their subjects under control. Although the platforms were established for communication and enhance the freedom and democracy, the sites have continued to put in placed diverse restrictive measures that dictate the actions of the users. The users that fails to align with the restrictive requirements are threatened with censorship especially when complaint is laid by government agencies. If they are not regulated, the social networks can be a stepping stone by oppressive government that are focused on subverting the rights that human being have taken much struggle to achieve.

Conclusion

            Massive users of social networks are increasingly turning the world into a feudalism system. Their huge number of users and the data they hoard daily have made social networks strongly influence marketing. The social networks have expanded their power to politics, with a good case in point being the analytical data scandal that was allegedly involved in influencing the victory of President Donald Trump. Apart from direct involvement, Facebook also uses lobby groups to influence policies across the world. Besides, the rising neo-feudalism is contributed by the fact that social media companies reap a huge amount of revenue while sharing a small portion with the users. With their wealth and social influence, social networks are increasingly becoming the new lords, while users are left in poverty and vulnerable to their manipulation.

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