What do I say about the Netflix Documentary, "The Social Dilemma" that hasn’t been said already? Forbes, Variety, NY Times, and many more have touted it to be one of the most important documentaries of 2020 and have induced some sort of panic towards social media in their articles. I will not argue those statements. It is an important documentary, but as mentioned in their articles, should we panic and think it is too late and start deleting our social media apps now?! How would that turn out?
Two years ago, Netflix released another documentary that made headlines all over the world. It heavily influenced people to adopt veganism or became vegetarian. This documentary was "The Game Changers". A study done in the U.S, which had 11,000 participants above the age of 17, found out that 84% of people among them started eating meat at one point of their life AFTER they turned vegan or vegetarian.
Why would this happen? Was veganism just a fad for these people that adopted it?
It's human nature to always opt for the things that give you pleasure, in other words, to do the easy thing than to do the right thing. Psychologist Seth J. Gillihan (Ph.D.) explains it in a very simple way. Suppose there are two tracks going alongside but both lead to a different destination based on what you plan to do while you are on the track. When we’ve spent a long time heading in one direction staying on one track, it’s easy to forget that the other track is right there. And it doesn’t take much to change tracks.
But how does all this relate to social media and The Social Dilemma?
The Social Dilemma tilts the scale and almost imbalances the ratio of the amount of good that Social Media has done to the bad, inducing panic and worry. It asks the question: How addicted are we to our phones? The documentary prominently focuses on how social media is causing mental health issues among teenagers, on cyber attacks by foreign countries, how people are addicted to social media, social media causing body image issues, how vulnerable minds are easily influenced by extremist groups online, and fake news and it's effects.
The answer to why there are so many negative side effects of social media from which you, me, and the people around us are getting affected is the business model on which these huge tech giants have built themselves. You are able to access Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, TikTok, etc very easily as it is FREE and extremely accessible.
When I was in my teen years, I opened my first Facebook account and thought "this is so cool!" But where do they make money from? The answer was very simple – advertising. There's no harm in it. But many people feel social media can be too intrusive, especially when you coincidentally come across an ad on any of the social media apps that you have been talking about buying something (for example; shoes) online in a private conversation (texts & chats). These apps make money through brands as brands pay them to show us the products and services we are looking to buy actively or inactively. Therefore the centre of all the controversy points to the blatant breach of data privacy.
As the documentary spends a substantial amount of time saying what havoc social media has created in our lives and surroundings it says very little on how to solve this dilemma.
It’s NOT the end. If we have adapted ourselves along with technological advancements, it is imperative for the laws to evolve as well. As the information fed to us is unregulated and can form biases, it is important for governmental bodies and lawmakers to take the lead and work with these social media apps to show what is right when it is affecting human lives and the world. Think about this: It is impossible for an AI to regulate the content because AI does not have a conscience!
Digital privacy laws would be a step in the right direction, which every app on play store, apple store, etc. would have to abide by and give the ultimate power of making a decision to the users. As huge chunks of data are collected from us, which is literally gold for brands, there needs to be more regulation around this.
How can the social media user be worth so much to the social media company, and see nil monetary gain from their personal data which is just 'out there' on the internet for the tech giants to make profits from?
If we strive to make amends today the change will happen one day. Even though human nature steers us towards the easy way out, rather than the right thing, it is possible to change tracks if we are led in the right direction. It is this optimism that landed a human on the moon and its optimism which can restore autonomy to consumers and audiences online.
What do YOU think about The Social Dilemma? Start a conversation today with the people around you and become more active in how social media shapes our online environment.