Written by: Kylee Doty
Many of you have probably heard of The Social Dilemma, a documentary on Netflix that has an air time of around an hour and a half. The producers of the project talk to top executives who have previously worked at or currently work at top social media companies such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. These specialists discuss the dangers of social media, and the way social media has been tailored to fit its users.
One quote I found interesting discussed how there are only two industries that call their customers “users: hard drugs and social media.” This caught my attention partly because it’s actually 100% true, and partly because it gives social media this connotation that it’s a drug. I think that as people, we struggle to admit when we have a problem or an addiction to something, and it seems to be the same case with social media. We have apps that track our social media usage, and even though we can see verbatim how much time we spend on each platform to the minute, we either ignore it or refuse to believe we have a problem with how we manage our time. I know a lot of us complain about how there’s not enough time in the day to get everything accomplished, but then we look into our usage app and see that we spent five hours online. If we could cut that down, we would find we have significantly more time to do other things. Sounds easy right? Wrong.
The Social Dilemma further discusses how social media algorithms are tailored to the user’s likes and interests, which means users see more of what they show interest in and less of things that won’t trigger them. However, this doesn’t mean that users only see things they want to. In fact, a lot of times algorithms will show ads, etc. for things that are the opposite of what the user searched for in order to get the user to interact with them. For example, if someone searched for right-wing politics, the social media algorithm may pull up ads for left-wing politics in hopes the user will engage. This is all a ploy to gather data and information on human beings in order to individually “guess” what the person will engage with in order to create a more customized experience.
But is it good? Many of the top executives interviewed in the documentary say the things that are taking place because of social media are extremely damaging, and most of them don’t let their children have social media, and if they do, they monitor it closely. There were also statistics presented in the documentary that showed depression increase that is likely due to social media in younger teens. These young adults, and kids even, are getting told from a young age that certain things about them aren’t “right” and it’s incredibly damaging to grow up in a society where you’re never good enough.
At the end of the day, the social media algorithms written as a social experiment to customize the social media experience are evolving and damaging our societies, and causing human beings to become more anxious and insecure. Our security must come from within ourselves and from the opinions of those close to us. Please consider deleting or taking social media breaks in order to realign your focuses and priorities, and to give yourself a clearer headspace.