5 key messages of ‘The Social Dilemma’ documentary
Blog - Oct 15, 2020
Until recently, every psychologist and sociologist and a few people interested in this area and different social phenomena were familiar with the term ‘social dilemma’. In the past several months, the first association to this term has been Netflix’s documentary about the power of social media and the hype it has provoked.
Some say that the film is scary, that it opened their eyes, that they experienced a revelation. Others claim that it is all true, but that it is nothing new, that we have all known it, although we have refused to admit or simply have not thought about it in that manner. This post s not about whose side you are on. The film presented the situation as it actually is and through key messages sent more than a clear message: Social media are the most powerful media and communication channel today and therefore one should be very careful with them. It is up to you how you will use them.
What does ‘The Social Dilemma’ teach us?
Snapchat dismorphia – A vast number of teenagers suffer from this syndrome, as, due to perfect looks enabled by filters and processing tools for posting photos on SoMe, they realise they do not look like that at all in reality. That is when a problem arises and they want to undergo plastic surgeries in order to look ‘perfect’. The term was first defined in 2018, and in rare but severe cases, children needed professional medical help. Lesson: Limit the use of social media and control children; explain to them that social media are one thing and real life something completely different.
Pizzagate – In December 2016, a shootout occurred in the Komet Ping Pong pizza place in the USA, followed by the arrest of a 28-year old man. During the previous US election, that pizza place became a topic of various conspiracy theories claiming that a paedophile chain was operating in it, including some prominent members of the Democratic Party, and the arrested man from North Carolina wanted to investigate the ‘case’ on his own. This resulted in the most bizarre conspiracy theories, and the public reaction was strong, until everything went too far. Social media played a key role in it, as explained in detail in the film. Lesson: Social media can be a centre of problems on a global scale, and this is only one of the scandals originating from social media and shaking the world to the core.
Fake news – Travels on SoMe six times faster than in the ‘real world’. As reported recently, videos with fake news about coronavirus had 20 million shares on Facebook during the lockdown. It is unbelievable how that click is easy, with few people thinking about the validity of the content they share and consequences that action may provoke. Lesson: We live in the Disinformation Age and we need to be wise and careful.
Positive internet reinforcement – So far, this term was related to expert terminology, but the word ‘Internet’ was added in the film, in the aim of explaining the fact that if we have positive experiences with the Internet and SoMe, we will want more and more of such experiences and we will increasingly use SoMe. Lesson: We should be careful and not overdo it.
Algorithm – Every SoMe platform has its algorithm, a method of functioning and behaving in front of a user. The biggest myth busted by this documentary is that SoMe gives us ‘content we like’. An algorithm operates as a ‘rabbit’s hole’ – it digs, looking for something closest to what a user likes, yet different enough to offer something new and interesting. It is the main source of profit for business and companies, with users as mere pawns following desired and expected behaviour patterns. Lesson: Do not accept everything that is offered, choose content you want to see for yourself.
In the end, bear in mind that the like option is designed in order to spread positive emotions, with users showing what they like, and a person sharing content feeling nice. Today, a like is business. And the real life is not a like. Be careful on SoMe and live to the fullest – the Internet will not go anywhere.