ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Is It Time To Breakup with Your Social Media?

Let’s talk about “The Social Dilemma”

Photo on Unsplash by Christopher Ott

I came across The Social Dilemma trailer through ads on YouTube. I don’t usually watch the ads, but this one caught my eye. I was skeptical at first about the legitimacy of the documentary because Netflix tends to distribute conspiracy or snake oil documentaries like The Goop Lab. After a Google search and confirming the legitimacy of the documentary, I pushed the button to watch on Thursday night. In summary, the show was trying to portray the social media addiction crisis and its influence on mental health, social behavior, politics, and public privacy. Bringing light to the sophisticated algorithms and business models behind these platforms that are targeting us as a PRODUCT.

Technologies such as social media have created a great platform that brings together people all over the world at the tip of a finger. For instance, in the current circumstances, COVID-19 Pandemic, the majority of people are staying at home for over six months. Some are living alone. Due to social media, we all can grab our devices and join an online book club, attend cooking workshops, learn new skills in Masterclasses, and my favorite, attending scientific workshops held by institutions and scientists across the United States and beyond. Let’s imagine that we did not have such a tool to spend in our free time. What if it was the 1918 Spanish flu and we were just sitting in our homes with very limited social connections? Not everyone is Shakespeare who would write a play while isolated during the plague. We need to be more realistic when it comes to new technologies.

Their shortcomings …

Although the documentary shed light on real concerns, it did however undermined the positive aspects of social media, and they did not spend enough time on showcasing effective solutions. You can not put the genie back in the bottle, but you can develop ground rules to optimize what has been created. The focus of the show was on how algorithms will take you down the rabbit hole especially with fake news and conspiracies. This is a disaster that we are facing in today’s world. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, mentioned that the algorithms don’t know what is good for you. This is a key factor to understand that AI is not taking over your life, but YOU ARE responsible to some extent. Do you want people to remove their social media accounts to punish the algorithm? No, that is not the solution. They touched on regulations as a solution very very briefly. I think that they should have talked about policymaking and regulations more extensively. Social media has been a tool to create chaos within a country or at a smaller scale within families and friend circles. It is great that we can sell products and target them to people who need those products. However, creating a fake world that everything is provocative is damaging our democracy. There needs to be policies and regulations that enforce Tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook to take responsibility.

The dangerous world of social media

We have seen groups such as Qanon grow exponentially due to social media platforms. We need to understand that every new product or technology has its downsides. With that in mind, social media and its embedded algorithm are NOT what we should be scared of, but the people who can take something so useful and create a hateful world with it. Trump’s twitter account is a source of fraudulent news and promoting dangerous movements to create chaos. Someone like Trump and Putin who are the leaders of society and use such platforms to promote hate and uncertainty within their countries or others should be held responsible. As Timothy Snyder puts it in his book On Tyranny:

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is a spectacle.”

What can an individual do?

You don’t necessarily need to deactivate your accounts if you are using it to become a well-rounded individual. I think that it is important to fight back the misinformation factory by spreading the news that educated journalists spend their lives and reputations to develop. The technology and algorithms are advancing very quickly, but our knowledge of the technology is close to zero. We need to educate ourselves about the technologies that form our lives in order to use them to our advantage. It is important to expand our social network and collaborate with others to serve our society. Instead, people are creating flat earther, anti-masks, anti-vaccine, and anti-humanity groups and movements. As an individual, I try to report the barbaric information that is designed to focus your attention on what is not the reality, a myth. I have been using platforms like Instagram to connect with scientists, science communicators, and authors or using LinkedIn to network with engineers across the world. How can this platform serve me? this is the question to ask from yourself. I trained the algorithm to suggest videos of workouts and lectures about philosophy. I only encounter the conspiracies when friends share them and I get disappointed and I report the false information.

“The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds” -Timothy Snyder

Conclusion

This documentary is highly recommended as it showcases the dark side of technology and how the creators of these platforms are using psychological manipulation to update the algorithms and turn us into addicts. Many former engineers and people behind the scenes are shining a light on these disgusting psychological manipulation that Tech companies are using to turn us into a product for advertising companies to consume. I loved how they spoke to the fact that we are a social species and it is important to have social interactions with a diverse group of people. They touched on lots of ethical concerns that need immediate attention to have a civilized and united people. Let’s remember that we can use these platforms as a tool that would serve us and not the other way around.

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Zahra Mesrizadeh

Zahra Mesrizadeh

Future Best-Selling Author | Future Forbes Under 30 | Storytelling: Personal Growth-Science-Politics-Tech-Cognition| Nanovaccine Researcher | Foodie 🍣🍝🍕🍫

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