I was never a social media worshiper, but did get in as I didn’t want to be seen as living under a rock so to say but I am happy I am not an addict as yet! So, when there was a new show on Netflix – ‘The Social Dilemma’ on social media and its evil control over us, I had to watch it.
Actually the documentary doesn’t say something we didn’t know about the social media, but the scary part is that it’s been told by the very people who created these platforms. They point out that we are living in a matrix right now. And that the Gen X (born in the 70s-80s-90s) at least knew life outside this matrix, the next and the next-gen (Gen Y, Gen Z, and Millennial) don’t.
What is it about?
The reason ‘The Social Dilemma’, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year, succeeds in driving home the message is because of the people in it. You will hear insiders from companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, warn us about the very systems they helped build. I think that makes it a lot more effective than reading an editorial or listening to a podcast about the same ideas.
The show shakes you up, and yes you can feel that that was the plan. The sound effects are terrific they are usually used for horror films, and is edited in a way to make you feel like you need to sit up and pay attention. Along with crisp interviews of tech experts, the documentary runs a parallel fictional story about how social media affects the life of a suburban family. I am shaken by some scenes – where a young girl goes to great lengths to reach her phone, a teenager could not complete the challenge of keeping away from his phone for a week, that a family had nothing to say to each other on the dining table without their phones. Yes, that will stay with me for a while and make me reflect.
Some of the prominent tech experts interviewed in the documentary include Tim Kendall, former president of Pinterest and ex-Director of Monetisation at Facebook, Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, and Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology who used to work at Google. Harris is clearly the driving force of the film.
Why it shakes you
So, here’s why this documentary is a must watch – it highlights the dangerous human impact of social networking with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations. They as much as accept that the platforms they have created and nurtured are now digital Frankensteins. According to them social media is a drug which creates simultaneous utopia and dystopia. And that we are manipulated and controlled beyond our understanding.
The scariest part was, which I didn’t like, was that billions of users like me of social media have now themselves become products and their lives are being controlled by the big platforms. This was made clear by using young actors and showing them as puppets and zombies controlled by AI. We need not wait for terminators and robots to take over our world but that we have already been taken over by machines is scary.
When asked what social media addiction could lead to they said – civil wars, destruction of our civilisation, polarisation, dismantling of democracies, ruin of world economies and destruction of our environment. (With video clips of examples like what happened in Myanmar, Philippines, Hong Kong and with elections in the USA and Brazil). This documentary is made in the USA as the Silicon Valley is based there, but we can clearly see signs of it in India as well. Other than increase in teen addiction, suicides, false self-esteem, need for constant validation, distant from our natural world and relationships. And the most vulnerable being our youth.
The steps you can take
These tech experts did give out some steps which we could follow. Do remember just switching off social media is not the answer they say, in fact it’s impossible in the present scenario. We can only reform them, bring them under some sort of regulation. They call for the need of a collective will to do something about the social media that has taken over our lives. We could also help by turning off notifications, uninstalling apps, not clicking on recommendations being some of them. Finally we have to limit social media usage and not use it as a digital pacifier, try for instance – not to bring your phones to your bedrooms or to the dining table, set a time limit for usage of social media for your kids. One point that really hit hard was that these tech experts keep their own kids away from social media platforms, that says a lot.
Yes, I have watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ a show against social media and recommending it on social media…don’t know where else to recommend, that says a lot doesn’t it…and yes you can thank me later!
(The views expressed are the writer’s own)
Smita Singh is a freelance writer who has over 17 years of experience in the field of print media, publishing, and education. Having worked with newspapers like The Times of India (as a freelancer), National Mail, Dainik Bhaskar and DB Post, she has also worked with Rupa& Co, a book publishing house, and edited over 30 books in all genres.
She has worked with magazines like Discover India and websites called HolidayIQ and Hikezee (now Go Road Trip). She has also written for Swagat (former in-flight magazine of Air India), Gatirang (magazine of MarutiUdyog), India Perspectives (magazine for Ministry of External Affairs) and Haute Wheels (magazine of Honda).
After turning freelance writer she wrote on art and architecture for India Art n Design. She also worked for Princeton Review as a full-time Admissions Editor and then IDP Education Private Limited as an Application Support Consultant. Smita has her own website called bookaholicanonymous.com which supports her love for books and reading!
You can reach her at: [email protected]
(Collage with images from the net)