Tobacco companies have never wanted people to know the truth. They use every trick in the book to hide the truth. Fortunately, social media did not exist during the late 20th century or the tobacco companies might still be fooling the public.

Social media use powerful techniques to lure unsuspecting users down a train of thought. They identify susceptible individuals by analyzing those individuals’ responses to previous posts or advertisements. They then push the individual a little farther in the direction they (the advertisers or opinion managers) favor. By repeating this process many times for a specific individual, they can firmly control the way that person thinks (reacts).

Social media have come to dominate the way many individuals think. That’s why the stocks of digital communication companies have become so valuable in the market. If digital social media, with instantaneous stimulation and reward, had existed prior to 1998 (the year of the tobacco settlement), the tobacco companies might still be able to fool the public into thinking cigarettes are harmless, or even good for you, right up to the present day.

Smoking is not good for you. In fact, it is very bad for you. Everybody knows that now. But for decades the tobacco companies fooled many of us.

We need to be hypervigilant to the danger of psychologic manipulation by social media online, in print, and on airwaves. Psychologic manipulation can make us behave in ways that are very contrary to our own welfare.

Ben Lounsbury, Auburn


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