True Life: I am addicted to social media.
I typically spend about five hours a day scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok. It’s my source of all news, information and entertainment. I get a high from seeing what my friends are posting and what my favorite celebrities are doing. It’s my safe place where I can be myself, and a place where I can get inspired. Honestly, I can’t go a day without social media.
By definition, social media means forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content. (Merriam-Webster)
The Social Dilemma is a documentary on Netflix takes a look at the dangers of social media. It contains interviews with executives who designed the technologies they now fear, and it discusses how social media has been transformed into a place where people’s lives, personalities, and decisions are being controlled by these technologies.
To be honest, this documentary drove me insane. It’s scary how the world of social media has taken this turn to become something that nobody saw coming. Social media has always been about keeping people connected, however, it has become a place where people’s behaviors, attitudes, thoughts and decisions are shaped, controlled and manipulated. (The Social Dilemma)
Former Executive of Twitter, Jeff Seibert, says, “Everything you do online is being watched, is being tracked, is being measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. Exactly what image you stop and look at, for how long you look at it.” (The Social Dilemma, Netflix) It’s actually pretty terrifying that everything you do on the internet is being monitored, stored, and used to shape our opinions.
There seems to be little to no privacy on the internet, no matter how “private” your social media accounts are. In my opinion, there needs to be something done about this. There was a comparison made by Sandy Parakilas, former Operations Manager at Facebook, about phone companies. He mentions how there are regulations and laws about sensitive data through phone calls, but there are almost no laws around digital privacy. (The Social Dilemma, Netflix)
People associate success, popularity, beauty and acceptance through the number of engagements on their social media posts. Likes, shares, comments, retweets — all of these things are just validation we are receiving from our friends, families and strangers that we crave when using social media. Dr. Anna Lempke says in the documentary, “Social media is a drug.” (The Social Dilemma, Netflix) I agree wholeheartedly — it’s something that we have all become addicted to. However, this constant need for attention, validity and acceptance is detrimental to our mental health.
I’m definitely guilty of this. For example: In high school, if a photo I posted on Instagram didn’t get over 100 likes, I would delete it. I would feel like it wasn’t a good photo if it didn’t get enough likes, and I would feel embarrassed for posting it. I’m not that concerned about those things now, but ten years later, there’s still a part of me that craves that attention. Sean Parker, former President of Facebook, says that social media is exploiting our vulnerability, and we are just allowing them to do it. (The Social Dilemma, Netflix)
A quote that really resonated with me was, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” (The Social Dilemma, Netflix) Social media platforms are free for consumers to use, but someone has to pay for these companies to make money. Advertisers pay Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to display ads on their platforms that make these platforms free for consumers. The advertisers are marketing to us in order to make money, based on our internet usage, search history, and interests.
The goal of these platforms is to keep people’s attention, and that’s where advertisers thrive. The longer we spend scrolling on these platforms, the more information the advertisers are able to gather, and the more times they are able to hit us with an ad that we are more than likely going to click.
Justin Rosenstein, former engineering lead at Facebook and former product manager at Google, says, “We’re seeing corporations using powerful artifical intelligence to outsmart us and figure out how to pull our attention toward the things they want us to look at, rather than the things that are most consistent with our goals and our values and our lives.” (The Social Dilemma, Netflix)
In order to have a more healthy relationship with technology, we have to set boundaries for ourselves. As I said earlier, I typically spend about five hours a day scrolling through my social media accounts. When I’m not on social media, I’m watching television and movies on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax and Amazon Prime Video. Everything that I do in my spare time revolves around technology, the internet, and social media.
My technology usage is not a healthy one by any means. I am so caught up in my online presence, and I admittedly have FOMO about missing something that a friend posts on their socials, or the next easter egg from Taylor Swift.
@taylorswift has posted a new photo.
If I was going 24 hours without social media, this notification alone would make me open Instagram immediately.
Cutting down on the amount of time I spend on the internet is the first step to a healthier relationship with it. Unplugging and being more active is vital to a healthy lifestyle, a more stable mindset, and a happier life in general. It needs to become less of a distraction.
Overall, the documentary made me annoyed. The former executives of these major social media companies obviously have more knowledge about the changing times of social media than I do, but I didn’t have the same perspective. The conversations that were being had during the documentary felt very conservative — there were lots of mention of “fake news” and election hacking that didn’t sit well with me. I heard things like, “Do we want our democracy to be completely for sale?” I just thought it was all very dramatic.
Maybe I’m in denial. Maybe I’m just delusional. But in my opinion, social media is a powerful tool to spread and share information, and to connect with people. People follow other people on social media who they want to stay connected to, and who share their same values and beliefs. We post photos, videos and stories that we want to share with the public. These are all choices that we make, and information about ourselves that we are choosing to share with the world.