4 Key Takeaways From “The Social Dilemma” and Our Stance As A Digital Agency
Social media has surpassed just being apps on our phones and has become a new form of identity for young and old generations alike. It’s how people get their news, find lovers and so much more. In 2019, it was reported that nearly 2.3 billion people use Facebook, the largest social media network, which means that nearly every 1 in 3 people is on the app!
As a digital agency with a large focus on social media, we made the decision to all watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. The documentary was released on January 26, 2020, but was just recently added to Netflix and with that became “big talk.”
1.We are “Users.” In general, the documentary was shocking and disturbing. One thing that stuck out was that individuals are called “users.” The only other industry that calls their customers “users” is the drug industry. The meaning behind this? The algorithms used to make these apps are supposed to make us addicted. Social media is seen as a way to escape real life for a while, but the main goal of the algorithm is to attract attention. Every second you are on an app, the algorithm is updating to be more appealing to you!
2. Fake news is everywhere. Fake news spread six times faster than the truth — Yes, six times! Social media was not made with morals; it was made by big tech companies with money on their minds. When we type something into Google, we expect to see the same results that everyone else does, but this is not the case. Google’s algorithm decides what we will view, which means different users will get different results for the same search. It is built to anticipate which results fit into more of your ideas already. It takes your demographic, past results and so much more into account when it chooses what to show first.
This means the recommendations you’re shown might not actually be in your interest. When you stumble onto a video for a few seconds, it can create thousands of recommendations, which can lead to propaganda and conspiracy theories. Some may have truth to them and some may be all fake, but the algorithms do not care either way because you are still reading and watching.
3. We get dopamine from our apps. AI technology was able to build in the psychology of persuasion, making the goals of social media to get us to take action, use up all of our attention and intermittently reinforce these behaviors with rewards. When we receive “rewards,” our brain releases dopamine that will eventually take us to the level of addiction. When we get off of our phones, we go into a dopamine-deficit state that leaves us wanting more.
When we connect with people, our brain naturally releases dopamine. Technology has found a way to manipulate our evolutionary need to connect with other people by optimizing it. Apps have been able to tie our created self-worth and identity to their products by dosing us with approval every 5 minutes, which exceeds 10x the amount we have received historically…Overload!
4. We are an experiment. In the documentary, we are called “lab rats” because, in truth, we are always being studied and tested on. Growth hacking is a strategy aimed at achieving massive growth to manipulate the user. In order to do this, big tech companies perform real-time experiments on people online who are unaware they are being manipulated.
Now take a second and think about all the ways you have been manipulated by your apps. From seeing something you MUST buy to news articles on why you SHOULDN’T eat or drink a particular product when you dive in deep, it may shock you. We are seen as part of a global experiment where apps compete for our attention and our basic privacy is sold to create a future where we could be controlled by AI.
Ways To Help Control Your Usage
- Leave all your devices outside the bedroom at least half an hour before bedtime
- Do not allow children access to social media before high school
- Turn off the notifications for less important apps
- Utilize the digital well-being feature that many mobile companies are now incorporating into new models
- Monitor your daily digital activity in terms of hours spent online
- Work on a”‘digital budget” with your kids to arrive at a reasonable duration for daily screen time
- Instead of watching the recommended section, pick and choose what you want to watch online
- Conduct multiple fact-checks before you begin sharing information that you found through social media
- Be conscious of every permission you grant to apps and websites, including GPS, camera, contacts and calls
- Follow people with views against yours to keep yourself aware of the reality that there’s more to the world than what you’re presented with on your feed.
As An Agency
Our agency has always been an advocate for organizations that work to prevent cyberbullying. With the rate of tween and teen suicide on the rise and the evidence of the influence of tech, AI and social media on users they show in The Social Dilemma it is more important than ever to speak out.
As an agency, we support the humane and ethical use of technology. We are always educating ourselves on the latest AI and social media platforms in order to understand and use them in ways that are moral for all. Just because Big Tech doesn’t always care about the people behind the screen does not mean we also don’t.
As social media has made a big impact on mental health, this month, and every month, we continue to grow in our understanding of the importance of making mental health a priority and supporting our clients and teammates who may be struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling and needs to talk to someone, please call 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline).
If you have not yet watched The Social Dilemma, we encourage all to take the time to do so. We may have broken down some main points, but there is so much more. Whether you’re a parent with children on social media or a CEO, it is vital we understand the impact AI is having on people’s lives and how we can use it for good instead of evil.