Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Trending Netflix documentary drama ‘The Social Dilemma’ explores the various ways social media is programmed to impact our lives heavily and with most of the impacts being quite dangerous. This documentary is narrated by people who work or have worked in the social media industry. It starts with a gripping quote from Sophocles “nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” giving audiences an insight into the shock they are about to get from the beautiful lie of social networking sites. Let us explore how and why social media is the puppet master of our lives, with Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ being the main source of information and inspiration for this article.
The whole concept behind a social media site, is to get your attention and keep it for as long as possible. Your attention is the product being sold to advertisers hence why we get to use social networking sites for ‘free’. But is social media free? Or are we simply paying for it at the cost of something else?
The way social media is designed is to ensure its users are essentially addicted to it. The more you use social networking sites, the more money companies like Facebook and Instagram make.
Your social media feed works in a similar manner to a casino slot machine. You refresh and wait to see what comes up. You feel like you have ‘won’ when something you like or relate to appears on your feed after refreshing. So, what do you do? You keep scrolling and refreshing. But the real winners in this situation are companies like Instagram who have now won the real prize at stake, your attention.
Social media sites use surveillance or “tracking” to help the marketplace. Every action you take using your social media accounts and the internet is closely measured and monitored with data collection for systems, as they are constantly adapting to us and our interests to keep us engaged. This data allows the algorithm to make predictions as to what we are going to do with our social media sites; what we are going to search or like or repost etc. Social media is powered by algorithms that focus on the goals of creating engagement, growth and increasing advertisement as much as possible.
Social media has led to an increase in fake news, which seems to spread faster than real news. An example of this is the extensive amounts of myths and conspiracy theories surrounding the latest outbreak of coronavirus. What was once known as the information age has now turned into the disinformation age.
Social media has given people a platform to increase hatred, violence, and other forms of harm. Political and personal polarization is increasing day by day because of social media. Social media also has the power to influence elections.
It is quite clear that social media has given us less control over who we are and what to believe. We are constantly being fed new information from sources that cannot be verified, yet we still choose to register these details into our brains. It can manipulate and lead us to believe false information and can sway our opinions towards a completely different direction.
The way social media has impacted the younger generation is horrifying to say the least.
Social approval is something most teenagers strive for regardless of social networking sites. Social media acts as a digital pacifier, provide the reassurance we need and want. For many young people, their confidence is gained in the form of likes and comments under their pictures.
In the last 10 years, social media has aided the pressures of being a teenager and has piled the demand for what is considered as ‘perfection’ onto young people in more drastic ways than ever before.
Teenagers gain short term happiness from likes and comments and feel the need to post more to keep this state of happiness and the feeling of self-worth they get from this response.
A recent trend has been the emergence of what is known as ‘snapchat dysmorphia’. This is where snapchat filters that enhance our faces and give us the confidence to take pictures etc are being used as a source of inspiration for the desired goals of plastic surgery.
Depression and anxiety have risen for teenagers because of social media. Many feel they have no self-worth because of the unrealistic expectations of the standards of beauty and perfection created by the illusion of social media. The results of this have been quite upsetting leading to many acts of self-harm and suicide.
Social media is an amazing way to connect with family and friends. It is still important to limit your use of social networking sites and I hope that after reading this you will pay close attention to your behaviour when using these sites and the impact they have had on it.