Netflix Documentary Questions Social Media

By Emily Cortes

Listed as the #8 movie in the U.S. on Netflix, The Social Dilemma is a cultural examination by former executive heads of big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Firefox, and Google. This documentary is ethically driven and urges digital consumers to hold those in charge of mass media to a morally higher standard. 

However, a large portion of people see nothing wrong with the way our social media operates. Yes, fake news is abundant and our feeds are redundant, but is it up to the user to understand that both everything being shown to them is the truth? When we create a social media account, download an app, even activate a new cell phone, we agree to terms and conditions that are pages long, we never read them, and even memes have evolved satirizing the repercussions of agreeing to electronic terms and conditions that you never actually read. 

This documentary calls attention to the idea that human beings were not made or evolved to have social interactions with tens of thousands of people. Social media gives each one of us access to millions of people every second, and they argue that for developing minds, this could affect self confidence and mental health in a negative way. The rates at which teenagers and adolescence have gone on a date or had a true romantic interaction has declined. Suicide rates in girl aged 15-17 is up 70% since 2009, and suicide rates in girls aged 10-14 is up 151%, 2009 being the year most social media became accessible. 

There are regulations on your privacy when it comes to phone companies, just like how there are laws and restrictions on television. Media like TV, and radio are not invasive to our deep personal psyches. The doc also cites restrictions put in place about advertising while cartoons are on so children aren’t heavily influenced or persuaded. Since the introduction of YouTube Kids, children are receiving media from unrestricted platforms, and youtube kids is accessible on every phone, tablet, computer, gaming system, and even most televisions in the home, so there are more modes to watch this media than there is to watch basic cable. 

To see a non-western adverse social media impact the documentary brings the viewer to the country of Myanmar. When you purchase a cellphone, Facebook is pre-downloaded and the sales associate will open an account for you. The government of Myanmar used Facebook as a means to spread propaganda that ultimately lead to civil outbreak that included mass murder and rape and forced migration of an Islamic denomination. Although government propaganda for the exploitation of its citizens has been around since the beginning of civilization, now it’s much more accessible and easier to manipulate for an extremely low cost. 

AI and algorithms are human made softwares that learns patterns as you feed it more information. The person who invented Instagram’s algorithm wanted to show you the posts that are most relevant to you, however, it doesn’t seem that way lately. Your friends and family aren’t the influencers who are selling you a product, and every three to four photos, they throw an advertisement in there, and if that ad is something you like, you can head down the rabbit hole of that product’s website, or other ads and photos with similar content. 

The scholars and tech moguls stress that if a company is not selling a product, then the user is the product. These apps are constantly fighting for the user’s attention in order to show them as many ads as possible while you’re still active in that app. Morality and ethical responsibility is the call to action, but each individual lives by their own moral and ethical code. How does a global network of people find common ground on what is and isn’t ethically acceptable and morally just?

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