Written by Guinevere Stearns
The Social Dilemma, a Netflix documentary released in Jan. 2020, gives viewers a glimpse into the destruction that social media really causes. As a member of Generation Z, I grew up with social media, and it has been a big part of my life for the past 7 years. What I have failed to realize is just how addictive it has become, and I think that most people who have incorporated social media into their lives might agree. This documentary gave me a big wake-up call into the realities of social media, and I think that it is certainly worth your time to watch.
The Social Dilemma talks to a few individuals who work or have worked for big social media companies, and the documentary sheds a new light onto the issues about social media. Jaron Lanier is an American computer philosophy writer who appears in the documentary, and he brings up some points that most people who use social media never would have considered. He talks about social media users as “the product.” Our attention on social media as we scroll for hours is what is being sold to advertisers, our behavior is the product. I found this part of the documentary particularly interesting because as a user of social media, I have never felt like I was not the one in control. After hearing Lanier’s theory however, I do not feel like I have control over my actions anymore and using social media with the thought of me being the “product” feels a bit unsettling. John Lanier says, “it’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product…That’s the only thing there is for them to make money from. Changing what you do, how you think, who you are.”
Have you have ever been scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and see an ad pop up for something that you have been meaning to buy? Or maybe you have been looking up the product reviews for something you really want, and then suddenly you see an ad for it on your social media? These websites follow what you do and where you go in order to get you to interact with their ads and buy their things. Every time you click on those ads, or maybe you do an impulse buy on that product that keeps popping up, you are changing your behavior which is what leads to you being the “product.”
This documentary is an absolute must-watch, as there is no downside to getting a better viewpoint on something that takes up so much of your time. After watching, I ended up deleting both my Facebook (which I have not opened in years) and my Instagram apps. I do not think that everyone who watches this should delete their apps, but after getting this insight into social media, I thought it was time for a break. Social media grows more every day, and yet not enough people pay attention to all the damage and manipulation that goes on behind their screen.