Our Social Dilemma
The film Social Dilemma @Netflix is an eye-opener. Its an irony I came to know about it through social media. The social media recommendation algorithms are infamous but the film brings new light to their effects on society. Previously, we had some ideas from the Snowden case and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal about our data being harvested without consent. This movie has an interesting take on multiple long term repercussions.
“Influencers & Inferiority complexes”
It’s in our basic nature to impress others to grow our network. The network is essential for survival. It was a fashionable thing to have many friends on Facebook in the initial days. But slowly it turned to something else. Likes/Retweets became directly proportional to popularity. There was a race to impress with witty quotes and posts. Although most of the time people parroted the same content on every platform, it became mandatory to have a digital footprint on all. The dilemma began.
We tend to see likes and retweets as fruits of our action and validation from peers. It’s has started affecting our emotions widely. We may not realize it. The scale at which we are expecting validation is huge. We keep on refreshing unconsciously. Our brain expects something more, even though that more may not be required. We cut off from our surroundings. This has become a major cause of mental distress among teens as depicted in the movie. The unrealistic scales of measurement of beauty and traits have pushed our youth in the abyss.
“Nothing vast enters the lives of the mortals without a curse”
The movie explains how social media when introduced was just a platform to connect with people and share ideas, exhibit creativity, store memories, and whatnot. The problem began when these platforms began monetizing. The easiest way out was advertising. They started selling ‘our attention’ to these companies. Selling our attention sound so weird. How is our attention gonna make the profit of the companies?
“If you are not paying for the product then you are the product”
The algorithms are designed to keep us hooked up to our screens. The more time we spend, the more we are influenced. This slowly turns into one’s perception. The whole thought process gets stirred.
Today we may not just end up watching updates from peers, we are also watching what’s popular in our location. Those viral videos with advertisements embedded when seen on repeat can affect our behavioral patterns gradually. Our mind is experimented on just like lab rats as pointed out in the movie.
It sounds scary. Some system out there tracking my actions and diverting me according to its wish is appalling. So some biggies are trying to influence us to buy their products and becoming richer by every second. Is this such a big problem?
“Fake news travels six times faster than real news.”
To get your undivided attention, social sites have allowed unprecedented unchecked content. This has created a haven for fake news. Human beings love stories since Adam. There is no surprise why all religions are preached in the forms of stories. It’s amusing for us. The truth is tedious. We love to look for conspiracy even in proven facts. It’s a common pastime. These conspiracy theories when delivered on our news feeds frequently turn into beliefs.
This has resulted in people living in their own parallel universe unaware of an alternate reality. The recommendation algorithm is so accurate that you will keep watching the similar stuff. This gives rise to confirmation bias.
This had lead to cultural alteration all over the world. People have been convinced with two lies:
1. They have adequate knowledge of everything on the planet.
2. Everyone who disagrees with them is stupid. They are either trying to disrespect them or hates them.
This had led to a surge in negative emotions like anger, hatred, distrust, etc in almost all societies. Extremism is getting acceptance. People have forgotten to agree to disagree. They are openly swearing and cursing on digital platforms if they find any kind of dissent. Women are worst affected by this. The physical absence and no clear legislation has made the situation worse. This is kind of pushing us back to medieval times where people lived in a lack of information. Can we afford this?
“What are the solutions?”
The movie suggests very naive solutions like switching of notifications or using Qwant instead of google. It does point out the need for regulation to monitor this. On the personal front, we can keep a check on our usage timings, delete history & cookies on regular intervals, do a google before forwarding, control our emotions, don’t do refresh unnecessarily, etc.
The movie has at least started a conversation. But in the end, it’s up to the government and society to consider this as a big problem and come out with an effective solution before it becomes an existential crisis. We, humans, have fought many battles for our existence. We will surely overcome this too if try.
And do watch The Social Dilemma @Netflix. It is one of the good things in 2020.