“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”
By Michael P Coleman
The very aptly named Netflix docu-drama The Social Dilemma poses several provocative questions about the use of social media and the usage of social media users.
I deliberately framed that statement in that way — it doesn’t mean what you may think it means.
Yes, if you spend any time at all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snap Chat, Tik Tok, or any of a myriad of popular social media services, you use social media.
But according to Jeff Orlowski, the director of the riveting film, you’re also being used.
The Social Dilemma features provocative contributions from many of the architects of a variety of social media sites. Collectively, those tech pioneers describe an industry that exists for a solitary reason: the monetization of its users’s online behaviors. According to the film, every click, every “like,” and every ❤️ that’s shared on social media is recorded, analyzed, and used.
How’s it feel to know that?
Many of The Social Dilemma’s takeaways were startling.
“When I was there, I always thought that, fundamentally, it was a force for good,” one tech architect said of his earlier years with a popular social media site. “I don’t know if I feel that anymore.”
“We have gone from the information age to the disinformation age,” said another.
And how about these:
“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
“Cell phones are a digital pacifier.”
And check this one out — it comes from Anna Lembke of Stanford University’s School of Medicine:
“Social media is a drug. We have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people, that directly affects the release of dopamine and the reward pathway. Millions of years of evolution are behind that system to get us to come together, live in communities, find mates, and propagate the species.”
“So…a vehicle like social media, which optimizes the connection between people, is going to have the potential for addiction.”
Go ahead and admit it. This is just between you and me. You’re know you’re hooked. Lembke’s talking about people like you. And me.
Throughout The Social Dilemma, searing quotes like those are interspersed with scripted vignettes that vary in impact. One of the most effective of them depicts a teenage girl’s shattered self esteem after a Snap Chat follower criticizes her appearance. According to the film, the rise of social media about a decade ago directly correlates with the rise of anxiety — and suicidal ideation — among our young people.
And as Lembke pointed out, those social media accounts are beyond being mildly habit forming.
“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software,” said Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University.
The Social Dilemma presented for me just one real dilemma: what in the world am I going to do when I delete my social media accounts? Since watching the film last week, I’ve already sharply reduced my time spent on Twitter, Facebook and the like. What in the world will I do with all of that free time?
Maybe I’ll actually have a conversation with the person sitting right next to me. That is, if I can get him to stop scrolling through Facebook and put his phone down.
Watch the trailer, then Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix! THEN, prepare to spend a lot less time on social media!