If you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma yet this is why you should

Do I need to delete insta ASAP?

Netflix has released a docu-movie, where ex-employees of social media companies expose how they really work, and it’s frightening.

So, If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s what you need to know.

What I thought going in

So, we all know these apps steal our data, right? Sure, but what does that really mean and who cares if they know what I buy and what I’m interested in? That was my positition at least. To be quite frank I don’t know how much I really do value my privacy, I’m a bit of a “I’ve got nothing to hide, I don’t really care” sort of person. But I didn’t quite understand why and how they use this data.

What I learned 

The issue is that this whole time I thought I was the customer in this relationship, but that’s not true. We don’t pay to use Facebook or Instagram, the advertisers do. Which means that we are not the customers, we’re the product.

One of the ex-employees said something that really hit me: “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”- Wow.

The documentary teaches you about algorithms that the platforms use. Social media is essentially designed to show you what you want to see, so it uses information on what you look at and for how many seconds- I know, creepy. It also uses data on what similar users to you have looked at, and that’s how it knows what to show you.

The main issue that this creates is that people are led further down rabbit holes. We’ve all been there when YouTube keeps recommending the next video and all of a sudden, its 4:30am and we’re watching a video on how to defend yourself against a pack of wolves (never look them in the eyes btw).

My thoughts after watching it

Going down these “rabbit holes” may seem like a harmless way to waste time, but a big issue is how theses algorithms are literally polarising politics. Think about it, people are so polarised these days that it makes you wonder “How do they not see what’s going on?” or “why aren’t they seeing what I’m seeing” and the answer is that they really aren’t.

If we look at political pages, memes or videos we are recommended more similar content that pushes us further and further onto a “side”. I have noticed myself falling victim to this in fact, being exposed to essentially one set of values and opinions, aside from the odd rogue Trump voting family friend. I have probably become a little virtue-signally, which I really don’t intend.

This polarisation is actually very dangerous as we can see with how much hatred there is in the world right now. Obviously many issues existed long before social media, but it has so greatly exacerbated our differences that we can’t even begin to understand the other side.

With the American election coming up and the two sides having two completely different views of the world, it’s not out of the picture that we may have an actual civil war on our hands.

This was not the intention of the creators of these platforms, but rather an unfortunate side effect. The fact is that these algorithms were created by people and can be changed just as easily, if only the companies would put their moral obligation over profit.

What I didn’t like

The documentary-movie hybrid uses interviews with these experts as well as fictional scenarios of how one family is affected by social media.

Whilst I found the interviews very interesting and compelling, I wasn’t a huge fan of the scripted scenes. To be honest, some of them were quite cringey and unrealistic, which took away from the general message. The actors pretending to be the computer software was strange to say the least, and almost felt like they were the villains in a children’s movie. Maybe it will help with people’s understanding, but I thought it was almost patronising.

Also, it was just plain ridiculous when the daughter brought out a hammer, and put on safety goggles at the dinner table to get to her phone, after her mum locked it in a glass box.

It felt like an attempt at comedy- that old “teenage girls would do anything to stay on their phone” mentality that is just really annoying.

I guess these parts make the movie more watchable and a bit less heavy, but since they are so cliché and ridiculous, they come off as a joke.

What I take away from it, is that social media companies have a moral obligation to right the wrongs they have caused, and I hope that if you watch it, you can see past the guys pretending to be computers, because that really isn’t the point.

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