I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I pressed play on The Social Dilemma. I honestly did not realize it was recently released. I could have sworn it was from a couple of years ago. I found myself so engaged in the information they were sharing and also a little mind blown. I thought of people that totally fill the bill of falling into the trap of being pumped with conspiracy theories and seeing news that they want to see. Heck, I swear I say something to my husband about what we should buy and then I go on Facebook and there is an ad right there for what I was talking about. I really enjoyed that they used past employees from key businesses to share some insight into how different apps work. I also appreciated that they used a family as an example of how this affects us in real life. Unfortunately, I was able to relate in some ways to what they were saying. There were a few key points that really struck me.
The first one was when in the film it quotes Yale professor Edward Tufte saying, “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” This hit home to me in a way that shows just how addicted we are to social media. We scroll through social media aimlessly without a purpose. We find video after video to watch without any purpose. We seek attention from peers with each post and like that we receive. For me personally, I am still a Facebook user, instagram I hardly use and if I do it is not to its full potential by any means. Snapchat I avoided for the longest time because I was so against its purpose in the first place. I coached high school girls at the time and it bothered me the things I heard about the app. To me it seemed silly. Now it is the probably my most used social media app on my phone. Tik Tok is now the app I cannot get behind. I see the hours friends spend on it just watching video after video. Sure some of them are funny but yet it is more hours spent staring at my phone that I am trying not to do.
The second part of this that struck me was when they talked about us being the product. That changed the whole way I thought about my time spent on the phone. Knowing that I was slowly being manipulated and therefore with each video I am watching, they are finding new ways to engage me and get me to keep my focus for longer. Since watching the Social Dilemma, I have become more aware of what videos I watch and how the next video that comes up sucks me into watching another and then another. I have become aware of the trend and similarities in each video. The way the video used the three guys to show how our phone works and tries to draw in our attention by sending us notifications was a great example of demonstrating how this all works. We haven’t picked up the phone for an hour? Ok here, check out this news story “ping” new notification on my phone and now I am scrolling through reading and watching videos for the next 15 minutes. It reminded me of “Inside Out” and how our emotions are controlled at a little control panel.
The talk about mental health and how cell phone use is affecting our youth and their mental state was not a new topic of conversation. This has been brought up numerous times and they had the data to show how much things have changed. The part that resonated with me was when an ex-facebook executive claims that he is most concerned about a civil war. By this he is referring to the ability for these companies to spread fake news and manipulate what we believe to be true. It really got me thinking about the divide in our society these days especially in the United States. When they showed that evolving graph of voters in the states and how they are losing the common ground in the middle of a Democrat or Republican.
It is either an extremist one way or the other. The constant sharing of conspiracy theories and other fake news has manipulated so many people to believe in things and take extreme measures to prove them to be true. The coronavirus, pizzagate and many more are examples of that. Fact checking and making sure our resources are coming from valuable sources seems to be a thing of the past. I know I have people I know and follow on
social media that have fallen into this trap. I am sure their newsfeeds are full of similar videos or ads supporting theories they have been googling. It scares me to think about what direction we are headed moving forward, especially with the Presidential Election just around the corner.
The Social Dilemma shares a lot of information and has a lot of well known Silicon Valley employees speaking out. Of course they are all sharing the negative side of social media with very little reference to the positives. That was the point of the documentary. I think it needed to be done to really drive home their points. It got me thinking about my last class, EC&I 830, with Alec. Each week we had two groups debate two different sides about a controversial topic in regards to technology. Each week I went in thinking I was pretty firmly on one side. Then after the debate I would say you know what maybe I can agree with the other side too. One of the debates was “Is social media ruining childhood?” After hearing the class discussion my stand changed. I saw a lot more of the good in social media that day. I still do believe there is some good that comes from it. I just believe that with technology there needs to be moderation and limits. It can bring so much good but we also need to balance it out with the basics of human interaction, exploring and learning on our own and just taking a break and getting outside! As I raise my kids I am reminded of this everyday. My oldest loves to watch a show but at the same time she will gladly spend hours upon hours outside. I know if I can juggle that balance and hopefully keep an open conversation going, I will be able to help her navigate through this very “connected” world.