Review: The Social Dilemma

Netflix’s latest docu-drama has put a lot of us in a dilemma, with technology and social media being called the modern-day Frankenstein’s monsters (though not for the first time!) by those who created their dangerous and dark features in the first place.

Woah!

Scary!

Depressing!

These are just three of the most common reactions I could gather for Netflix’s latest docu-drama, The Social Dilemma, released on September 9, 2020.

We already know how creepy social media can be, especially platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even Gmail, but to watch it for real how we are manipulated every single time we go online, is something that nobody seems to have been prepared for.

Not even my husband, who, up until now, believed that he wasn’t a “product” for social media as he stayed away from it as much as possible.

Unlike his wife, who’s online at least 5–6 times a day, he doesn’t upload pictures, doesn’t share his views on different subjects or even stalks people (ok he does that sometimes through my profile!)

Oops! Sorry sweetheart🤷🏻‍♀️😂

And yet, he was blown by the insights provided by the show.

Our need to form relationships is so strong that it has helped social media creators and designers to manipulate our thoughts and how we want to engage with the world.

For me, the show took on a realistic, trusting kind of quality, the moment it started introducing people who were interviewed for it. Jeff Orlowski, the director of the show, managed to get on the very Frankensteins who helped create the modern day social media “monster.”

From Tristan Harris, former designer ethicist with Google, and Jaron Lanier to Justin Rosenstein and Tim Kendell, well known names of the tech world, the docu-drama presents views of those who participated in creating the evil in the first place, but soon (or pretty late) realized what its impact would be on the world and individuals.

From democracy to our mental well-being, everything is at stake right now, according to those on the show.

The culture of capitalism that remains unchecked in most nations — an important aspect of this world that we inhabit today, is unfortunately only touched upon in the show. It doesn’t dig deeper as to how there’s an urgent need to keep a check on and also regulate the few giants of the tech world that dictate everything about our online presence.

But I am not here to analyze that. I am here as an active social media user. I am here as someone who writes for the online world and has to engage with readers and followers to get better at my skill and my job.

So, I am here to understand what can I do in my capacity to control what I share or even see on my feed and not get scared or overwhelmed by all the information I now have, about the algorithms used by FB and similar platforms, thanks to this docu-drama!

How can I, along with being the “product,” minimize my manipulation by technology?

Before that, let me also reiterate the fact that once we are informed, it’s up to us to either ignore that knowledge or take action based on it.

So here it goes:

  • If my work and life doesn’t get dramatically impacted by it, I must get off Facebook and Instagram like right now!

It seems like Facebook is the worst of all the online devils and manipulates its users in more ways than one.

  • If that’s not possible, I must actively create or share content that cuts through negativities like fake news or propaganda-based groups and information.
  • Limit my screen time and my dependence on the internet for anything and everything!

Example: if I am feeling low, I do not have to go online and Google my symptoms or go to Instagram and follow the hashtag “depression” to understand my situation better. Instead, I need to call to a friend who’ll listen or seek professional help.

  • Not believe everything I see on my feed. This becomes important because we have been programmed to consume mindlessly when it comes to scrolling through FB or Instagram or even Twitter.

As one of the women on the show shared, I will try to actively seek or follow those who differ in opinion from me and not take in every suggestion that social media pops up in front of me in the form of group suggestions or those creepy ads.

  • Be more conscious in posting or re-sharing information that I’ve first read on a social media platform to begin with. Keep a check on how much time I spend just scrolling through my feed. Cap it and remember to unfollow any and everything that makes me feel mentally exhausted or vulnerable.

A lot of us have experienced positivity on social media too by finding long lost friends or strangers who ended up providing us hope on a gloomy day. I know I’ve created some meaningful relationships thanks to my interactions online.

There are also so many around the globe whose livelihood now depends on these social media platforms. We literally have jobs that have been created because of the existence of these “monsters.”

To come back to myself, I found my tribe during my postpartum days on Instagram in the form of new mothers all over the world who were on a similar journey. So it’s not that manipulation always brings harm in the online world.

As scary as it may sound, we are all being manipulated in some way or the other and we are doing that to others too!

So instead of getting paranoid, let’s try to be aware of our social media presence and act responsibly when online. Being mindful and aware is what can change things for the better, not just in the real world but also the virtual.

To wrap it up, I’ll just share one of my favorite quotes that I often repeat to myself:

What you seek is seeking you.

Rumi

I would love to know your thoughts on this one.

Let’s engage at anoushkabhartia@gmail.com

Writer. Buddhist. Feminist. Looking for freelance projects.

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