Swipe Right for The Social Dilemma

Brianna Nguyen

October 11, 2020

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Day in and day out, we may find ourselves mindlessly rotating through our plethora of social media apps: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or refreshing our Gmail. It is the beauty of technology where we can stay connected and bolster productivity, especially during COVID-19, with remote work and Zoom meetings. Recently, the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma has taken the spotlight in exposing and highlighting the harmful influences imposed upon app users through our daily tech platforms. Former executives from Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, Apple, Twitter, and several more share their honest testimony on the strategic goals and business model of the tech giants and how this has grown out of hand in shaping human psychology today from social media usage.

Persuasive technology and Advertising

Serendipity and social media are two words that do not belong together. It is not serendipitous to discover a new clothing brand on your Instagram feed, to see articles only catered to your political views on Facebook, or uncover your recommended or suggested videos on YouTube. It is not by chance but certainly intentional. The addictive and manipulative nature of social media is designed to increase activity and modify behavior. Businesses are certain to make money with ad placements, and to be successful with advertising, pronounced predictions are key. In achieving great predictions, a great deal of data is needed about the user. It is cyclic where tech platforms have many metrics on every user to keep them coming back for more, promoting advertising and money for businesses.

System of Misinformation

With technology evolving quicker than ever, it is easier for false narratives and anomalous rumors to circulate quicker than ever. Fake news and real news are blurred together indiscriminately. It is not that tech giants manually feed us this content, but it falls into the algorithms and AIs first created on these platforms that have advanced and spun us into political polarity and loss of truth. Our user metrics cater to and predict our beliefs and interests; therefore, it is easier to be static in our own philosophies from what we see and read, which has driven today's political divergence. All in all, we are in a system of misinformation where we no longer have a shared sense of reality.

The Social Dilemma highlights other key points on the effects of social media, including mental health, and presents fascinating statistics. Hearing the specific testimonies from former tech executives and their initiatives in contributing to a more ethical, humane approach in social media is vastly inspiring; it is a recommended watch for all audiences. Most importantly, it is significant to understand that this documentary does not make the point that tech giants are the bad guy nor should you delete your social media apps altogether, but to be cognizant of your usage and the effects of social media on your health. It advocates for humane technological designs for the good of society.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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