The Social Dilemma: Influencing Day to Day Society; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Released as a Netflix Original Documentary, The Social Dilemma is a documentary that highlights our every day social networking channels, and the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes along with them.

Each and everyday, technology is growing at an alarmingly rapid pace, and that does not exclude social networking/web based sites or platforms such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram- to name a few. As a society we have made these platforms an essential part of our day to day lives. Long gone are the days when you wait for the 6 o’clock news or the newspaper to arrive at your doorstep to see whats happening in the world. One click of an app like Twitter or a quick Google search, and you get not only local, but world news in seconds- right at your fingertips.

First and foremost, I want to highlight one of the first things in the documentary that really resonated with me. Tristan Harris, a former Google Inbox employee and lead contributor to the documentary said, “I noticed while I was working at Google, that nobody was working on making it less addictive.” (By it, Harris is alluding to email, but I think he brings up a really great point).

What Harris said really resonated with me because I never realized exactly HOW addicted I was to social networking/platforms until I watched the documentary. Quite frankly, it makes me angry that Harris is right; nobody at these companies is doing a thing to make them LESS addicting. To be addicted to something created by a couple engineers or computer scientists working for a corporation that is literally making a profit off of addiction makes me sick to my stomach. The worst thing is? There’s nothing I can do about it because it has become a centralized part of my life as a human being; it’s almost vital in order to survive at this point.

Advertising for The Social Dilemma

Something that really resonated with me that was discussed throughout the film, was how much of our self worth we find through social media channels. As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve see an influencer or another person (even people I know personally) post a picture of themselves where their body looks perfect, their makeup looks flawless, or they’re highlighting what they have (example, a Prada bag or really expensive new Tesla), and I start feeling bad about myself. All of a sudden, I find myself in the gym the next day doing a workout because everyone was raving about it, or I spent $80 on a pair of pants because they looked amazing on an influencer (who mind you, doesn’t have the same body type as me). My view of myself and my life is so distorted because of the highlight reels that other people have posted about theirs; and that makes me feel absolutely awful.

source: https://www.buro247.my/culture/buro-loves/aesthetic-what-does-it-actually-mean-and-how-you-c.html

I’m a graduate student at The University of Florida studying Mass Communications with a concentration in Social Media. For me, this documentary highlights the scary side of the industry I have come to know and love so much as a working professional. Of course, there are so many great benefits to social media and the purposes it serves for the greater good. We can now get live action accounts of different natural disasters, a global pandemic, election results, sporting events, and so much more. The Social Dilemma being released in 2020- the year of pretty much our entire lives going virtual holds a lot of value. It teaches us that yes while social networking is an integral part of everyday society, at the end of the day; it’s still a business that is making a profit and putting it into the hands of the rich.

So here’s where our morals come into play; how much of your mental health and privacy are you willing to give up in order to be part of something that is at the end of the day; a business?

I think the ultimate question is: How can we find a balance between contributing to an essential part of society; while still protecting our mental health and our privacy on social networking channels?

One thing that I think is a great integration into helping curve the societal addiction to these channels, is what Apple has done to introduce limitations on screen time. Below is an example of how screen time works for visual effect: you can set time preferences for how long you spend on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, among others.

source: macrumors.com

According to an article written by Kevin Wells, and published on kykernal.com,

“Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have become ubiquitous in student life in 2019. As a result, eliminating social media use altogether is nearly impossible, especially considering the medium’s impact on our social and professional lives. On the other hand, overuse of social media can lead to addiction and depression. So how much social media is a healthy amount?

Experts have recommended 30 minutes or less per day as the maximum time you should spend on social media. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, limiting use to 30 minutes a day can lead to better health outcomes.” (Wells 2019)

Now, obviously 30 minutes a day for every social media channel may be a little hard to do right away when trying to limit social media use. But in moderation, we can use social media for good, and not see it in so much of a negative light by limiting our screen time. I think Apple has made an excellent step in the right direction by implementing screen time that you can change based on your needs for social media/networking sites, but there is so much more work to do.

If sites like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook set app time limitations within their own platforms for everyday people that DON’T use social media for their profession every day, I think that could help curb the addiction to networking platforms, while still having people engage with the content posted each and everyday. An example would be that since most social networking platforms offer some type of area to input what your profession is on to their site; users could have the option to say when they sign up “Yes I’d like to limit my daily app use to:” and then there could be different levels they’d be offered based on their profession. Someone who works in home building, would utilize a site like Twitter way less than someone who’s a Software Engineer since most of their work is manual labor, and not internet based.

In the end, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from watching The Social Dilemma is just to be mindful and really understand yourself; what you do on social media and what you consume directly correlates with how the rest of the world sees you too. Being careful with what you post and consume online, is not only going to benefit you mentally, but will also make the social networking space a safer place to be as a whole for the greater good of the human population that is online. Keep your accounts private (unless you are a business), be mindful of what you post, and take time to evaluate what is important to you- both on and offline.

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