In 2020, a year we’ve spent on our devices in isolation, The Social Dilemma was released and has revealed the dark sides of social media. If you haven’t watched the film yet and still plan to, I suggest that you stop reading now because there are spoilers below.
The documentary film is a collection of interviews from founders, programmers, and other people who were behind platforms like Facebook, instagram, and twitter when they first came into being. They comment on the dark sides of social media like surveillance capitalism, data mining, the influence on teen mental health, how it is designed to nurture addiction, political issues, and conspiracy theories. Many of these “dark side” attributes are enacted by algorithmic codes generated by artificial intelligence. The machines are essentially using human weaknesses to meet goals that are hidden from the consumer.
At the time when this film came out, I was already taking a break from social media. I decided to take a break for the last week of September and the month of October to avoid being exposed excessive amounts of political ranting. I still received a fair share of information from my friends and clients and that was an amount that I felt I could handle. I anticipated this election would be fraught with a lot of slandering and mud slinging and I already chose not to add my energy into the mix.
I think the timing of The Social Dilemma couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a really thought provoking piece that begs the question of “What actually is true in our media and in social media?”. I’ve never felt more a part of “The Matrix” than I did after watching the film. The feelings were as follows:
- Validation: I totally knew this on some level, I just didn’t realize how deep the rabbit hole actually went.
- Anger: I knew it, social media is total bullshit! We should all return to the good old days and just interact in person.
- Helplessness & Fear: Wow, if a computer can figure out how to manipulate people with a formula, maybe we are actually headed for a Terminator type future.
- Doubt & Suspicion: If social media is run by an algorithm, what have I been being fed? How is that different from other people? Who is trying to divide us? What on social media is actually real?
- Relief: The truth is ultimately freeing.
- Curiosity: What can I do about this?
I tried to remain off of social media, but with the pandemic happening and half my life still in some kind of lock down mode, it was really hard to keep myself occupied without the endless hours of entertainment freely available through social media. I think all human inventions have the potential for good and evil in the world. The thing that makes it one way or the other is the consciousness and intention we put into utilizing the technology. Social media has been able to connect people all around the world on platforms where they can communicate, learn, share ideas, laugh, keep updated on each other’s lives, and collaborate. I didn’t want to throw all the good out the window.
The time away did give me a chance to think about the kinds of information I wanted to consume when scrolling through social media. For me I wanted to have positive inspirational speakers, art videos, comedy, relationship advice, and animal rescue videos. When I did return to Facebook I made a point to start selecting the types of content that would show up in my feed. There’s options to turn off certain advertisements and videos so I took full advantage of this feature. You can also “snooze” friends if you need a break from their political rants or whatever. Another feature was turning on the notifications for my favorite content creators.
After about a week of working at choosing the content in my feed I was able to create a social media experience that is enjoyable for me and supports my mental health.
I hope this post was helpful for you. If you have any additional tips please write them in the comments below!