Our Digital Dilemma
Netflix’s latest release, The Social Dilemma, has all of us shaking in our boots. If you haven’t seen the film, it is a documentary that outlines the dangerous impacts of technology and social media, exposing how Big Tech profits off of people like me and you, every day, around the clock.
Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram might seem like a harmless, lackadaisical way to pass time, but in reality, these social platforms are monitoring our every move. By capturing and leveraging our user data, we’ve become pawns in a broader fiscal and political game. As a result, we are more engaged, dependent and reliant on the content we are fed and devices we own than ever before – so much so that social media now has its own behavioral addiction classification (for context, a whopping 10% of Americans alone meet this criteria).
If you have watched The Social Dilemma, chances are you’ve either completely deleted your social footprint or have seriously considered doing so. Regardless, it is important to remember that: A) the film is not highlighting a new revolutionary concept and B) technology and social media are not going anywhere. In fact, both will continue to play a vital role in the way we operate as a society and as individuals.
Look at the year 2020 for example – the introduction of COVID-19 has made us more dependent on technology than ever before, both in a personal and professional setting. With the inability to travel freely and have face-to-face interactions, we’ve taken to Zoom, FaceTime and Snapchat to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. A new McKinsey survey even suggests that responses to COVID-19 have sped up the adoption of digital technologies by several years and that the changes are here to stay.
So, where to from here?
It’s safe to say we’ve gotten ourselves into a predicament – as The Social Dilemma illustrates, the very devices and platforms we rely on everyday are becoming detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing and the health of our social and political system.
Given that technology is here to stay, how do we deal with this dilemma? Yes, social media has put us in a pickle, but getting rid of it is not the answer – we need to come up with solutions to ensure that it can safely exist without harming society.
Instead of dwelling on the negative, let’s take a look at how we can develop a healthier relationship with the tools at our fingertips.
They say ignorance is bliss, but not when it’s at the expense of your personal wellbeing. Educate yourself and those around you on the risks involved with technology and social media.
How? Start somewhere – anywhere. First, you could watch The Social Dilemma. You should take the drama with a grain of salt, but it will really make you rethink your relationship with the platforms you use. The film actually launched a website as a call to action to provide people with valuable resources and content. Give it a read.
Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to take action. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you minimise your screen time so you don’t have to fully delete your favourite social platforms:
- Understand your usage – download a screen-time management tool so you are aware of how much time you spend on your device and specific apps (disclaimer: the numbers might scare you at first).
- Create limits – implement physical barriers to accessing the apps (hide them in different folders in your phone or make a deal with yourself not to use social media before bed).
- Turn off notifications – mute push notifications to eliminate the need to constantly be connected.
Understand the far-reaching implications.
Clickbait. You’ve probably heard of it, but do you know what it is and how it actually works? Clickbait is a form of false advertisement that uses overly emotive headlines to lure in users, typically leading to misinformation and ‘fake news’ – a term we’ve all come to adore in the Trump era.
The volume of misinformation floating around has become instrumental in shaping our personal views, and as a result, the world around us. For context, in the U.S., 55% of adults get their news from social media. With clickbait on the rise, it is nearly impossible to find trustworthy news and content.
So, question everything you read. Check the source (twice, even). Challenge people on their opinions and always fact-check.
Be an advocate (for yourself and others).
You’ve probably heard of the 2016 Cambridge Analytica scandal (if you haven’t, another must-watch flick is The Great Hack). This was basically a precursor to The Social Dilemma and highlighted just how vulnerable our user data is. Personal data might not seem like a big deal, but when a company like Facebook has thousands of data points on millions of people, you get skewed elections and polarised nations.
Beyond your personal use of technology and social media, it is important that we have a collective voice in regulating Big Tech and social platforms. Check out these reforms that social media could take in light of The Social Dilemma. It is up to us to hold the government and Big Tech accountable.
Long story short: be intentional with how you use social media. Educate yourself on the risks involved. Understand the global implications of scrolling Instagram. Finally, advocate for change and data rights.
Statistician Edward Tufte puts it perfectly: “There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’: illegal drugs and software…if you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product.”
Always remember, we are the product. What action will you take?
Charlie & Co