THE SOCIAL DILEMMA - a jolt of reality






Ever wondered how Instagram knows exactly what we want? What's the deal with the targeted ads that show up at regular intervals? Then you have to watch "The social dilemma"

I want to start off this article by defining the term " social dilemma"

 In simple terms, a social dilemma is a situation where someone chooses the short-term benefit over the collective good that could be achieved in the long run. It s a deep rabbit hole for those who want to read more about it.

Now coming to the Netflix Docu-film " The Social Dilemma". This documentary-drama hybrid explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.  They try to communicate the extent of the problem posed by social media – one that has the potential to topple governments, disrupt the very fabric of society and undermine democracies through manipulation and misinformation.

After watching the film, I wanted to throw my phone away. but guess what happened? I was back on my phone. And when I tried to put it away, I was at my laptop. Maybe after reading this article you'll get why this is a problem bigger than "willpower"

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the movie contains interviews from the ex-employees of Facebook, Google, Instagram, and all the experts. Along with this, there's a parallel storyline portraying the negative effects of social media and a mobile phone on a family and its kids.

It is like a real-time, modern-age horror film. And the background music does not make you feel any better.


One way to interpret the problem is by something that Jaron Lanier said. He asked a simple question, what if Wikipedia showed different results to different users? If we all entered "Mitochondria" on wikipedia we would all end up seeing the same information. But that's not the case with social media or Google. Every feed is customized and different. In fact, no two feeds would look the same.  It's more directed towards keeping your attention rather than showing hard facts.  (wow) 

Every coin has two sides. Every scale has two sides. But what happens when one end starts tipping? When one end becomes heavier than the other?


And this documentary is trying to open our eyes to see this chaos. Because, How do you escape when you don't even know you're trapped?

 What's a tool? Something you use when you want it or you need it.

Tristan Harris uses the example of a bicycle to tell the viewers about what a tool should be.

If something is a tool, it is just sitting waiting patiently. Or else it is demanding things from you. seducing you, manipulating you, and wants things from you."

 Social media was intended to be used as a tool but it isn't a tool that's waiting to be used anymore. it has its own goals and its own means of pursuing them

There are 100s of silicon valley employees learning the vulnerability of the human psyche, to use it for their own benefit.  Social media has moved away from tools based tech to addiction and manipulation based tech. Our psychology is being used against us while we're blissfully unaware.


" If you're not paying for the product , that means  you are the product "

All that social media wants from us is our attention. To keep scrolling, and keep engaging with the content generated by the AI.  So if we are the product, who is the consumer? The advertiser. The more ads we look at, the more money the platform makes. Social media is in the business of selling their users

These apps target the human mind,  what will make you change yourself unconsciously? what will drive you to make these choices that they want you to make? what will make you give maximum time in a day to them? 

Maybe a clickbait notification to irk your excitement. Maybe a black and white feed. Maybe a new conspiracy theory?

The system behind the screen knows everything about us. Every move we make is watched. Every scroll, every tap, every pause, and it knows our moods, interests, and things we don't particularly like to see. The LOGARITHM is always 10 steps ahead of us, already computing the next recommendation (to keep us hooked), the next notification, and is getting smarter with every refresh.


Justin Rosenstein, who co-invented the like button on Facebook said that the like button was originally created so that people can express love and spread positivity. But now it has become the cause of depression for many teens who stare at the number of likes under their own pictures. They see it as validation, as acceptance, and change themselves to fit into a fake world fabricated by these platforms.

Who would have thought that it would lead to depression and political polarization?

The rates of self-harm and suicide has gone up since 2010, around the same time social media was born. Our gen is afflicted with anxiety, loneliness, more than ever. The platform allows a horde of unregulated information because it adds to their profit. If a person were searching for a group of lonely teens to manipulate, the system will serve them up in a platter

" In twitter, Fake news spreads 6 times faster than truth"

But when this news affects the real world, it stirs up violence,  influencing elections, shaking the democracies, and sowing discord. Again, we can always protect ourselves by just some introspection but by that point man is sucked too deep into the vortex.

Of course, social media has been cause for a lot of good, reconnecting people, making lives easier and faster. But we can't deny the flip side of the coin. 

The riots in Myanmar, Hong Kong, were all instigated by these platforms. In Myanmar, people were provoked against the Rohingyan Muslims using facebook, which resulted in a mass genocide.

 One always comes across news that they would be more vulnerable or susceptible to. If you are pro agenda, you'll never come across the news from another person's point of view. There's a false sense of confidence that everyone's on the same page and that it's faultless. That's why you never know the other side's story. Thus arises polarization, hate, and a lack of tolerance.

So ask yourselves; is the news you see the news you should see?

The absurd thing is that many viewers took to social media to point out in their reviews that this show being on netflix whose advanced algorithm kept spewing recommendations for you was ironic.

If you're looking for some shred positivity, the show tries to show a light at the end of the tunnel at the actual end of the film.  Regulation and accountability in the industry can go a long way.

Things you can do ? 

  1. Make sure to hear both sides of a story and fact check before coming to a conclusion or posting anything.
  2.  A big game changer would be to turn off your notifications.

More than anything, this is a reminder to do better, to be more objective  and not be mere lab rats.

We can take back control, fight back. The issue is that the other side knows us all but we know nothing about it. How is that a fair fight? It is time to change that.

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