What is “The Social Dilemma”?

The Social Dilemma is a Netflix documentary that speaks about the impact that social media has on people’s lives, perceptions and relationships with each other.

Where does it all start?

It starts when you activate your social media accounts which creates a footprint. This footprint never goes away, even if you delete a photo, comment or even an account. 

What does “The Social Dilemma” actually mean?

From the documentary, we gathered that platforms create algorithms. This means data will be collected and recorded about what you are interested in, what you have liked and watched on these platforms etc. 

As times goes on and the more we use our social media sites, the better the predictions will become. These platforms are in competition for you, the “user” and your time.

If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.

The documentary explains that these algorithms are designed to make you spend more time on these platforms, what you see is intentionally placed on your feed to grab your attention. This means that social media accounts can control and alter a person’s self-esteem and identity. 

Why does this create a “Social Dilemma”?

The tools that have been created today, are starting to erode the social fabric of how society works.

It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.

What does this mean?

The documentary says that persuasive technology is produced to deliberately apply the extreme which starts to alter the society’s behaviour. They use psychology to have a recurring reinforcement that has a positive effect on someone in the short term. In this process, three techniques are used. These are, the design technique, photo tapping and growth hacking

How does this change society’s behaviour? 

As  mentioned before, the documentary says that these platforms show us what we are interested in etc but it also shows us what we already believe in. However, there are more fake news stories occurring in people’s feeds that relate to what they already believe. This leads to people believing that what they read and see is the “truth”. 

The documentary explains that because of this, we don’t always see other views and the whole picture about a topic or situation. This leads to people being one sided which in the end changes society’s behaviour. 

The programme highlights how this can be problematic with conspiracy theories relating to Covid, climate change and elections.

If something is a tool, it is just sitting there but if something isn’t a tool, it’s demanding something from you, manipulating you, it wants something from you.

What effects does this have on individuals? 

Overall, the documentary is saying that, the more time we spend on platforms such as social media, the more we are disconnecting from the real world. As well as how we relate to other people because of what we are being told. 

My Perspective

I have a lot of the social media accounts myself and initially, I did not know what went on behind the scenes of these social media accounts. 

As I grew older, I started to find out bits and bobs about the dangers of these platforms from friends and family about how social media works behind the scenes. So, I kinda knew what was going on but not to the extent of what I found out in the documentary. However, I chose to carry on using these platforms. Despite still using social media, I kept what I’ve been told in the back of my mind as I still wanted to be as safe a I could be.  

Once I finished watching the documentary, it surprised me how much more data was being collected about me than I thought and how they use that data to encourage more social media usage. I found it interesting how these algorithms control what we see, the way we think and so on. 

I think the original concept of these platforms is a great idea where we are able to get positive outcomes in our lives. For example, the reuniting of families and being able to connect with your friends and family easily. These platforms are great for times such as now where we haven’t always been able to meet in person etc. 

However, like they mentioned in the documentary, overtime the concept changed into something more negative and it seems now that the negatives outway the positives. I think that in the long run, if it doesn’t change, we will see more young people having an adverse effect to their mental, physical and social well-being. 

Since watching the documentary, I have now reduced my time on my social media accounts which now allows me to have more time to spend on other things that I want to do.

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