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Social media is not just a place to be social anymore. But something else! Now it’s a platform for manipulation.

We all get passionate from time to time about things going on in our world. In 2018 there are certainly more than enough lousy things going on in our world to get upset about.

But now we also need to be aware of whether we are getting upset about something that is real or something that is being twisted to manipulate us into believing something that serves the interest of another.

We know this is true because of the highly shared Cambridge Analytica articles and videos about how they used 50 million Facebook profiles, psychographic data and quizzes to exploit behaviours of the masses during the US election. These users are fighting back:

So yes, social media is not just a place to be social anymore. It’s a place for mass  manipulation. Definitions we used to know are being turned upside down.

Hackers used to be a term for electronic trespassers, or bad people that found a way around online security measures.  Now it’s a way to get what you want. Now you can hack your body, hack your brain, hack a lot of things! Try typing “hack your” into Google and see all the options that come up. You can “hack” anything these days.

What down is up, what was up is down. Everybody is doing it so it can’t be bad.

Or can it?

Who is hacking our protestors? Are protestors really protesting or are they manipulating us again to serve the interests of another?

In business we like to believe that decisions are based on calculated factors. ROI, cost benefit analysis, profitability, break-even analysis and future probabilities and risk mitigation. Then in the less measurable intangibles like; Customer service, customer value, customer satisfaction. Then to the owners; Shareholder value, and Business owner pride.

But is it really true? Businesses are run by people and even the most logical people are mostly run by emotions.

Now that is a potentially contentious statement, please read on before you judge.

Brain science tells us that we have 3 parts of our brain which are focused on different aspects of our experience.

  • Cognitive (Cerebral cortex, the thinking brain)
  • Limbic (Paleomamalian brain covering emotions and social hierarchies)
  • Reptilian (Basal ganglia, also called the crocodile or lizard brain)

We like to think we use the cognitive brain mostly in important decisions. But, is this really true?

The fact is there is a lot of research that indicates our limbic and reptilian brain still controls our actions a lot more often than we realize. This happens because anytime we get triggered into a high stress fight, flight or fear response that is when our reptilian brain takes over and ensures our safety. Examples include a businessman who underwent surgery for a tumor that removed part of his brain related to emotions, and afterwards he had great difficulty making the simplest decisions in life.

Read more about the neuroscience of decision making here

Why is this important in a post about hacking protestors in a business context on LinkedIn?

It’s important because critical decisions about the infrastructure and indeed the operating of our countries are being decided based on outsiders manipulating the decision and actions of our people. Those decisions are affecting our businesses and our world in a way that is potentially lasting and devastating for many. People, businesses and indeed countries are affected.

How is this possible?

Let’s take the example of Canadian Energy situation. I live in Canada where the 3rd largest oil reserves found on planet Earth reside. Most of that oil is located in land-locked Alberta, so the #1 challenge is getting the oil to where it can be used. As a result only a small fraction of the oil reserves in Alberta get to market. Indeed, many parts of Canada especially in the East must import oil and oil products from outside Canada.

Pipelines are needed to get the crude oil to the refineries and then to the consumers. Right now those “pipelines” are being facilitated by rail which is a far riskier method of transportation with less quantity throughput than a fixed place pipeline with monitoring and continuous flow. The railway pipelines are reported to be at maximum capacity.

Here are some of the factors that influence attitudes that I’ve observed. Keep in mind this is not a complete list!

  • Attitudes towards the environment and very real spills and leaks that have occurred
  • Celebrity actions to inspire unrest and protest against the industry (even though they used jet fuel and gasoline to get to the protest)
  • Lack of cause and effect understanding in the general population
  • Foreign groups that seek to manipulate and sabotage Canada’s energy economy
  • Even attitudes towards the current prime minister related to his father and actions that took place in remembered history in Alberta, and assumptions about whether that is happening again
  • And many, many more!

I don’t believe there is anyone who can fully describe all the factors at play in this situation we find ourselves in here in Canada. But when I read an article in the Financial Post describing how a foreign group is announcing so happily that Canadian teens are getting themselves arrested while protesting something that their lives and livelihoods and lifestyles depend on, I want to take action to make a difference if I can.

When people in British Columbia are upset because:

  • on one hand they don’t want the stationary pipeline to replace the moving pipelines that travel the railway through our national parks today
  • on the other hand they don’t want the very high gas prices they are experiencing

I wonder…how can these people not understand the causality between these factors?

Maybe they do, and the reality might actually be that most people in British Columbia agree with the pipeline project.

Personally, I agree with the Financial Post that we Canadians as a people deserve to receive full value for our energy exports.

I believe that businesses need to know that their governments are working for them, and that social media is not going to sabotage their kids by exploiting those young people’s emotions and manipulating them into staging protests and getting arrested.

We have a lot of problems on this planet and in Canada. These are not simple problems with simple solutions.

But the first step is to understand our own actions and be sure that we are not being triggered to act on someone else’s agenda.

We are being hacked, and not in a good way.

Here is the Financial Post article.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Where do you stand on the hacking of protests? How do you inform and protect yourself? How can we help our citizen to make informed decisions?





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