Exploring the Impact of Social Media on Lighting Technology – A Personal Take

According to marketers of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, et al, social media is the engine of change, the foundation for bringing information and real transformation to the people. With Social Media, we will see the world connected and refreshed through the voices of the previously unheard. Social Media is the new light, the symbol of freedom and ultimate new world order founded on the concrete foundation of the first amendment, the true voice of “the People”. It has enabled revolution and advanced the human cause. It all sounds so… amazing and spectacular, if not completely incredible.

Behind the scenes, social media is actually just a software/app product that generates income for a few large corporations, who sell subscriptions and advertising. The product, like any hyper successful product, as addictive. makes people feel connected to in a world of growing isolation (paradoxically made worse by social media.) The addicted find the idea of shutting it all down frightening. Withdrawal is a made impossible by the pressure of peers and marketers.  Peer pressure drives the reluctant to partake. SM pushers peddle the virtues of SM to individuals and organizations, promising a bright new future through inter-connection. They push the idea that failing in Social Media is a precursor to failing in business.

The real truth is that millions of individuals, and millions of businesses exist and do just fine without SM. Further, those succeeding with SM are those pushing it, selling access, promoting and consulting those entering it. SM is a self-fulfilling prophecy for some, a null activity to many, and a distraction or negative influence on others. Interestingly, stalking is a criminal offence. Following the activities of individuals (cyber stalking) is a social media feature, often called “staying connected”.

The underlying question to be answered is whether being visible is the same as being heard. SM offers visibility, but is that the same as communication?

The attraction of the negative is strong

Human psychology makes us all more prone to focus on bad news and negative information. Many tests have proven this, even when we say we would prefer more good news, we chose the bad, as in this brief BBC Article on the topic.  Some of it based on Schadenfreude, and more. This creates a bias within SM – which depends on click-through and impressions stats – toward negative and controversial content. Ask any on-line retailer. One single-star review has more impact that 100 five-star reviews, even of that one-star review was by someone who misused the product, or complained about the box it came in. Negative information need not be rational, or even factual, to be believed, according to this report in Psychology Today.

The attraction of the negative in SM, amplifies the voice of alarmists and critics, making them stronger than they deserve. In the skeptical and biased SM world, anyone sharing positive and proactive information are seen as profiteering promoters of products or technologies that likely do some hidden harm. Accusations of culpability and liability are thrown out casually. Conspiracy theories are advanced, information distorted and twisted to prove outrageous “alternative fact” theories, many founded on the argument from ignorance fallacy, which assumes that any lack of proof opposing the criticism to the satisfaction of the critic, proves it is true.

Timing is everything

In an unfortunate happenstance in timing, solid-state lighting technology emerged simultaneous with the explosion of social media. This has produced a mixed bag of benefit and cost. On the benefit side, sharing of positive information, distribution of success stories, sharing of imagery, dialog about challenges faced and overcome – are all broadcast and made larger and more productive. On the cost side, the voices of overly concerned, miss-informed, hysterical, confused, fabricated specialty alarmist organizations with a web sites,  are all heard, loud and clear, with greater voracity (due to the negative news dynamic described earlier).

In the real world, lighting has always been a mixed bag of benefit and risk. For example, the Mercury Vapor lamp that once dominated, then led to the deployment of Metal Halide derivatives, was a horrible light source. Mercury vapor lamps produced UVB radiation, UVC radiation, horrible color, and non-existent color rendering characteristics. Yet, this lamp was in service longer than any other source, short of the incandescent bulb. Halogen lamps are another interesting case or common acceptance from lack of public dissidence. They produce UVB and UVC radiation that will burn skin and retinas, are dangerously hot and prone to explosive end-of-life failures that have caused severe burns and fires. Yet, these little sources are coveted as ideals of light source quality. Had social media existed when these sources emerged, would their reception have been as “warm”?

LEDs are not the first victims of social media. The CFL lamp claims that title. The force of SSL promoters pointing to the environmental issues of mercury, short life of early products, poor color, etc… inflamed SM, which ended the technology’s advance. Despite quality lamp manufacturer’s mitigating the mercury issue, improving color performance, resolving short service life issues and solving dimming issues… it was all too little too late. The lamp was cast as an evil of over zealous energy conserving liberals bent on destroying the planet and humans on it, to save a few Watts. Any good news or progress were assumed to be cynical marketing lies to save profits at the cost of human health, if SM critics are to be believed.

Every market, from food and fashion, to lighting and cars, has bad players and good. In general, we know that cheap products are likely to be junk. Yet, we, as a collective of penny-pinching consumers, can’t resist holding these products up as the state of entire industries. SM thrives on this, as it is great fodder for hateful dialog. Any attempt to point toward more costly quality products is met with the pat answer “that’s just too expensive”.

Development of any significant technology is expensive, and the products that incorporate it often reflect that. Conversely, feeding on the news of advancing technologies, while making empty promises to dupe customers, without investing in the actual technology being used as a marketing ploy, is free. Thus, cheap product is junk and anyone expecting a product selling for $5 to perform like the real product, from a true innovator costing $60, is a fool, and deserve what they get. In SM, this is completely ignored in favor of criticizing an entire class of product based on the performance of the cheap knock off, which does not actually include the advancements being criticized. After-all, if the $5 product was a ripoff, then imagine what a scam that $60 must be!

SM can’t sort fact from belief

Social Media includes a great deal of reliance on belief-as-fact, aggravated by those who rarely, if ever, investigate the topic they are expressing an opinion on. Since the population at large will absorb negative information readily, critique gains attention faster than positive, with greater staying power. An example of this is the linear fluorescent lamp. The original T12 and T17 fluorescent lamp, operating on magnetic ballasts did indeed produce flicker, terrible color, and mercury waste. These lamps did cause eye strain and headaches for many occupants, and mercury contained was significant. Later fluorescent lamps (T8 and T5), operating from high frequency (20KHZ) program start electronic ballasts produce zero flicker, color performance as high as 90CRI, longevity of 50,000+ hours, with impressive efficacy, and only trace amounts of mercury. Yet, complaints of headaches, flicker and poor color persist in SM circles. In SM circles, all fluorescent products are flickering color distorting sources, destroying human health and the environment, and that’s that. Anyone who believes differently is just an ignorant corporate shill, or liberal energy conservationist radical, willing to see human kind expire to see our human rights violated in order to ram glass tubes filled with poison down the throats of the innocent.

Concurrent development effect

Enter the emergence and deployment of LED technology. Like the earliest versions of CFL, and the precursor T12 products, early cheap LED were awful. What is not recognized is that SM, as an emerging product, was and is also quite awful. While continuing to chew up the CFL lamp, disparage the linear fluorescent for long past sins, SM wrapped its arms around the disparagement of LEDs, and have not let go. Now we have a litany of accusations. From blue light hazards to flickering and the destruction of human health and wildlife. Paradoxically, while LED technology has improved significantly, SM technology has only made it easier to be awful. SM participants have not improved, nor has the media itself found a solution to the broadcasting of B.S.-as-fact, broadcasting of alarmist conspiratorial theories, or slowed the dissemination of outright lies and ignorant opinion.

Concurrent to the advent of solid-state technology, and the expansion of SM, is emerging research findings and fresh discoveries on human visual and non-visual function (which actually are not that fresh – as many topics date back as far as the 1940’s). The internet has exposed this breaking understanding to non-scientists for individual, unqualified interpretation. For those looking for “facts” to back criticism, cherry-picking research data can be manipulated to support whatever case they wish to make, regardless of the actual intent and/or content of the sources being used – like pastors selecting verses from a Bible in prep for a sermon. Scientists, being scientists, do not consider this. They include as much objective data as possible within the narrow scope of their topic. Non-scientists, believing that a paper containing 5,000 words must be covering the entirety of a topic, fail to understand that those 5,000 words are focused on a narrow target, often condense-able to a 200 word summary. Scientists do not consider how their results, conclusions or wording will be manipulated by SM punditry and those looking for threads of “information” to found their claims and theories.

SM has no editorial layer. This means that real information, facts, fiction, libel, personal attack, fake news, false conclusions and fallacy all hold equal voracity. The recipients are expected to act as their own filtering mechanism. The discovery that Social Media is now being used by foreign powers to erode our national well-being is proof of how flawed SM is. Unfortunately, SM has been elevated to the level of religion by its proponents. Believers can tune out, block, delete and ignore all that they disagree with, and focus, friend, like, share and wrap themselves in everything they believe. The echo chamber effect has been part of society all along, Social Media just elevates it from problematic to a chronic state. Today, the country is being torn into smaller and smaller tribal groups, echoing anonymous beliefs in opposition of “them”, with hatred, outrage, and visceral language – to further enforce the defensive walls of their narrow views, no matter how ridiculous.

The solid-state lighting industry faces a population of detractors, who found their objections on the combination of early product failures, poor understanding, lack of investigation, miss-interpretation of terms and scientific data, exaggerations of small concerns into massive conspiratorial fabrications, accusations, outrage, lack of objectivity, and lazy suspicion of anything that even feels like change. These entities have a voice, and that voice is carried through the bullhorn of SM. It’s a free for all, where the most frightened and ignorant are given the same weight as those attempting to solve problems and share objective perspective, distribute information, and point to sources of viable, real information on which to build understanding. This is so pervasive that organizations (like the AMA) have been drawn into issuing position statements founded on half-baked information and poorly interpreted technical data.

The reality we should all be celebrating

LED technology has matured well beyond its early failures. Not only is color and energy efficacy improvement been spectacular, but so has SPD content. Take a look at Seoul Semi’s Daylike products for an example of just how good a simple COB LED array can be at both color performance, but mitigation of spectral content concerns. Beyond this, we now have integrated white light tuning, dim to warm to satisfy those who miss the incandescent lamp, specialty LEDs for blue light mitigation and wildlife support, dimming to dark, electronically adjustable optics, and super compact sources to fit details not light-able before. LED technology, by virtually every measure, is improving lighting, across the board. From sports arenas, to a task light for reading at the bed side, solid-state technology delivers what customers and end users desire and need.

There is no collusion or conspiracy to destroy or ignore human health in order to advance profits. Quite the opposite. There is a great deal of coordination and joint work being done to improve lighting for human occupants, to advance the healthful effects of properly designed product, and to enhance visual performance. Yes, progress seems slower than necessary. That is hardly improved by the noise caused by impatient SM critics blasting away at generalities.

Detractors are distracting

Social media detractors who rage on about how LED technology are doing more harm than good. Accusing producers of putting their self interests above those of their customers and end users… simply, and I say this without reservation… is wrong. These critics are not performing a public service. They are not contributing by “exposing” concealed truths. They are feeding those who are afraid, who do not understand, who live in little echo chamber bubbles. They are slowing progress. They exist, and succeed, because Social Media is deeply flawed. SM not only creates a venue for the nutters who defy all advancing technologies, it offers no defense against them when they steer others off the rails behind them. If any product is in need of improvement, that is causing damage to he human condition every day, it is Social Media itself.

Recognizing the paradox of this post

I recognize and fully acknowledge this blog exists within the purview of Social Media. I accept the conflict of expressing such view here, where my commentary is being presented without editorial review. I get that the issue of SM content cannot be addressed by the product itself, but from content generators. The underlying failure of SM is the failure of its participants. The producers of the venues themselves cannot be held responsible for misuses and abuses. The reformation of SM will only come from the “Social” participants using the “Media”.

In conclusion

Considering all of this, I have decided to do the unthinkable, and discontinue my participation in conversations within SM as a whole, which includes comment sections within news sites, Twitter, LinkedIn In comments, etc.. This includes deleting content I can from past participation. Why? Because responding to comments or offering opinions below content appearing from sources only advances the continued use of SM dialog as a vent, without taking any real positive action.

I have already closed Facebook out as superfluous to my needs. I will continue to post articles on this blog, and on a blog soon to be launched that will be dedicated to the application of LED uses in curing resins and adhesives using the products I make and system components I offer. In both cases, I will attempt to produce objective, fact based information, with references and cited sources where appropriate.

I will always be open to sharing my opinions and expose my own biases and stupid ideas to those who wish to talk with me personally, over the phone, or through email. I chose, and suggest to others, that such “sharing” is inappropriate in the open, unrestrained public access, stone age technology we call Social Media. Drop me a line or give me a call. We can talk about anything… in private.














Author: kwillmorth

I am an artist in lighted objects and product designer.