By Chloe Webster
Photo courtesy of thesocialdilemma.com
On a weekend night a few weeks ago, my mom informed our family that we would be watching the new film “The Social Dilemma.” The documentary was shown at Sundance this past year and made its way to Netflix where it soon reached the trending section. As I sat down on the couch that evening, I thought I would be hearing an overheard message about social media.
I got up ready to delete my Instagram account.
“The Social Dilemma” blends commentary by technologists, researchers, and previous employees of social media companies with a fictional narrative about a stereotypical American family. According to the website, the purpose of this film is to reveal the control major applications like Facebook and Instagram have on billions of people and how this control negatively impacts our way of life.
“Technology’s promise to keep us connected has given rise to a host of unintended consequences that are catching up with us. If we can’t address our broken information ecosystem, we’ll never be able to address the challenges that plague humanity,” said the creators of the film.
Yes, the need for platforms which connect families, friends, coworkers, and classrooms is more important than ever before. Yet, the film revealed the deep-rooted flaw: we have forgotten how to be happily engaged with our own lives.
Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Gmail are obsessed with an algorithm that promotes enslavement to a screen because these companies’ profits rely on pulling us away from the reality around us. They will do everything they can to hold us captive, even if that means polarizing communities and putting our health on the line.
According to the New York Times, the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns on social media doubled in the past year. And, the Internal Facebook Report of 2018 revealed that 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because of algorithms that steered them there. The film made it clear that we are fed the information we want to hear, and in the process have learned to listen less to the person in front of us and more to an online account with which we agree.
This is why I took a break from Instagram. In short, I felt used. I was being manipulated, paying these large companies with my time, and in the process, sacrificing my own quality of life.
And I am not the only one.
Lost in the bombardment of data that surges through our brains everyday, we have lost our sense of self . We see what we are supposed to like, eat, wear, do, and be. We scroll and scroll until we don’t care anymore. We go to bed wishing we had her body and his following and their vacations. And then we wake up to do it all over again.
At what point will we fight the system?
Tristan Harris, one of the technologists featured in “The Social Dilemma” started an organization called the Center for Humane Technology. He is working to fight this system. His goal: design products and platforms that have ethical intentions in mind instead of divisive manipulation. He also encourages people to explore the resources his organization provides on the pathway towards humane technology.
“As long as social media companies profit from outrage, confusion, addiction, and depression, our well-being and democracy will continue to be at risk,” Harris said.
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