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The Social Dilemma

The Negatives

Let’s start with the negative effects of social media as the documentary primarily focuses on the problems that have arose in recent years.

A few years ago I was defintiely someone who thought that people saying social media was bad were overly cautious and unecessarly worried. However, when rewatching the documentary, and after taking many digital citizenship + EdTech courses, I realized that I am much more aware now of how technology and social media can negatively impact people. Here are some points that I jotted down while watching the documentary in relation to the issues surrounding social media:

  • This is the first time in history that program designers have impacted so many people.
    Tristan Harris spent a lot of time trying to convince Google that this was an issue and needed to be adressed as a few poeple should not be able to control how millions of others will think/precieve something.
  • Social media compagnies are selling customers to advertisers.
    A quote that really stuck out to me during the film was that “If you’re not paying for the product then you are the product.” This was crazy to me as I never thought of it this way, but it is true. These platforms are free for us to use but at what cost? We are essentially allowing ourselves, our data, our preferences, etc., to be sold to advertisers. It is not just our data that is being sold, but “the models that predict our actions [which are created by these compagnies] are what is valued.” They refere to this as Serveillance capitalism in which “market places trade exclusively in human features.”
  • Social media is not just a tool
    Another quote that got to me was when they said that “Social meadia isn’t a tool waiting to be used, it has its own goals and means of pursing them by using your psychology against you.” This connects back to the fact that they have all these algoritms gathing information about you in order to use that inforamtion and your preferences to place adversitments and content that will interest you.
  • Social media has caused increases in suicide, self harming, mental healt and negative body image issues
    The documentary, as well as numerous articles and studies (see here, here, and here for some examples), indicate that since social media has become popular there have been increases in all of the above listed things. This is espcially prevalent amongst the genereation of kids who were growing up when social media emerged and they were in middle school. We are living in a generation of people who are more anxious, depressed, and less comfortable taking risks.
  • Social media is divding us
    Fake news and misinformation are causing great divisions between citizens all over the world, and social media is only fanning the flame. Social media worsens this by allowing its algorithms to promote untrue or possibly false information constantly. Newsfeeds and google search terms are personalized by algorithms based on your interests, views, opinions, location etc. However the algorithms can’t always know what is true or accurate. This information that you recive impacts how you perceive the things around you.

Aside from the negatives touched on in the documentary, there are other ways that social media can negatively impact people. A few more ways presented by Siddiqui & Singh are:

  • Loss of intereste or engagement in face to face interactions
  • Distraction
  • Hacking, catfishing + impersonations
  • Addition to social media itself
  • Saftey issues- this can rang from privacy issues to predators using social media to find victims for things like abductions, human trafficking, and sexual explotation

The Positives

Althought The Social Dilemma focuses only on the negative aspects of social media. There are also still some positives that exist. Some more examples from Siddiqui & Singh are:

  • Social media can make it easier for some people to feel more comfortable communicating
  • I can allow people to form and grow connections and relationships
  • I can allow people to better reach supports that they need
  • It can help businesses recieve feedback from customers and promote their products and services, this can be especially helpful for local compagnies and people who do not have budgets for advertising.
  • Positive changes in society by uniting people for good causes
  • Sharing information across the world
  • Can allow for self expression and building of ones own identity

How Can We Make It Better?

We all know that social media, and technology in general, can have both postive and negative effects on people, especially our students who are younger and are all growing up in this digital age. We as teachers have seen these effects first hand: rising mental health concerns, lack of concentration/distractions, cyber-bullying, fake news + more. Even though it seems like there are so many negatives, we need to focus on the positives that exist because social media is not going anywhere. It is up to us as teachers to educate our students on digital citizenship skills so that they can use these platforms safely. We can also continue to work on moderating usage and educating students about the negatives that come along with using social media platforms. Parents also have a role to play outside of school as these skills need to be taught from a young age, before even entering kindergarten. Lastly, the tech industry and the people who created these programs and algorithms used by social media have a role to play as well. I will finish off with a quote they used in The Social Dlimma that perfectly sums up the idea that they compagnies and platforms can fix many of these problems if they choose to accept their role in the creation of these issues.

Human beings can change these technologies for the better if they are willing to admit that these bad things are coming from their work.

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3 thoughts on “The Social Dilemma

  1. Great post! I have also watched The Social Dilemma and yes… the day I watched it I felt everything negative about the time that I spend on these apps and the data that I am sharing on these apps. But as you said… “didn’t stick with me in the long run” for me as well… I didn’t notice my usage after a few days.
    Indeed everything has its pros and cons. Social media has its own and it depends on us and the way in which we involve ourselves with this platform. As you also mentioned that it is up to us to educate students about the negative side of social media… I also believe digital citizenship is very important.
    Thank you for such an informative post!

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  2. Thanks for your post. One of the things I’ve noticed from the growth of social media is the number of unverified news stories that make it into the mainstream. Internet bloggers, social media posters, YouTubers and the like are not trained as journalists and spend no time verifying their sources. If we went back in time 30 years a reporter would spend a great deal of time triangulating information and confirming their stories before going to print. Now someone can post an entirely fictional story, which is re-posted, referenced in an article, and then referenced by a legitimate news sight. Everyone then quotes the news site and the story gains an air of authenticity. It can take days for someone to actually backtrack through and find out the original source was fraudulent. I end up dealing with this in my teaching all the time. When I taught social studies students would bring up dubios articles, only to find out weeks later that they were works of fiction. The pressure of social media posters to be first to break a story for more “likes”, “shares”, and “retweets” incentivises them to post first, check later (or never). It worries me that our legitimate news services are getting smaller and smaller, or outright dissappearing.

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  3. That quote about being the product really stuck out to me too. I never thought about myself being a product until I realized that I looked up one thing on TikTok and then my for you page there had every 3rd video talking about what I looked up just once. And even my Facebook had advertisements for something I looked up on Instagram. No wonder it’s addicting, it knows what you like!

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