Big data and online media conglomerates have significant power over the behavior of individuals. Online platforms have become the largest canvas for advertising, and the most profitable commodity is users’ attention. Large tech companies, such as Facebook and Alphabet, use historically effective psychological advertisement tactics in tandem with enormous amounts of user data to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their customers, who are not the end-users, but the corporations competing for advertising space on users’ screens. This commodification of attention is a serious threat to socio-ecological sustainability. In this paper, I argue that big data and social advertising platforms, such as Facebook, use commodified attention to take advantage of psycho-social neuroticisms and commodity fetishism in modern individuals to perpetuate conspicuous consumption. They also contribute to highly fragmented information ecologies that intentionally obscure scientific facts regarding ecological emergencies. The commitment to stakeholders and growth economics makes social advertising conglomerates a significant barrier to a socio-ecological future. I provide a series of solutions to this problem at the institutional, research, policy, and individual levels and areas for future sustainability research.
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