I just forced myself to sit through an hour and a half of this most-talked-about Netflix documentary on social media. I was tempted to check my phone a few times, but I didn’t. And I’m glad that I have watched it.
First of all, if you think that social media is just another tool to keep yourself connected to the world, and you can choose to stop using that tool anytime you want, then this documentary will change your mind. It will force you to rethink your use of social media and reconsider your need to check the phone’s notifications every five minutes or so.
Experts suggest that the more you use social media, the more you become easily manipulated by their algorithm, which was designed to keep you hooked up as long as possible. Some even compare the act of pulling down to reload your news feed to playing slot machines in Las Vegas. You’re promised something new every time you pull down, even though you don’t know what it will be. We can easily spend two hours or more on social media every day without realising it.
There is also an increased risk of polarisation, as social media in general and Facebook in particular tend to show us content that they think we will enjoy, in other words, content that is aligned with our personal values, political views or religious beliefs. By doing that, these platforms hope to increase our online engagement, as we are more likely to read, like and share posts that we agree with. However, it also fuel social divisions, as each of us are shown different sets of information on social media, thus reinforcing our own worldview while dismissing other perspectives.
As human beings, we crave social connections and recognition from our community. However, due to this genuine, we are subject to manipulation by social media. Our success, smartness, talent or appearance are measured by the number of likes and shares we receive, rather than our achievements or contributions to society.
So what is the solution? You can try to deactivate your account and disconnect for a little while. You can try to turn off notifications or switch to a “dumb” phone. But as more and more people are using Facebook Messenger or Viber to get in touch with each other instead of the traditional phone book, you will find it harder and harder to stay connected. No ultimate solution is given in The Social Dilemma, but it can help you become more aware of your social media usage and change your behaviours accordingly. After all, the choice is yours, isn’t it?