The Social Dilemma


JP Coll '22, Editor-In-Chief

This weekend I watched The Social Dilemma, a film where former employees and executives of large tech and social media companies came together to create a documentary on the dangers of these large corporations.

The documentary takes a look at some of the most impactful effects that social media has had on the lives of young teenagers all the way up to adults. Anxiety, depression and suicide attempts have increased for teenagers with the new pressure that having social media and depending on the approval of others has brought forth.

Justin Rosenstein, one of the men that created the “like” button says that their only intention was for it to spread love, but now it has become addictive to young teenagers to strive for likes and feel worse about themselves if they don’t get as much as they want or as much as their friends get

The documentary states that “if the product is free, you’re the product.” Social media apps are always free and we see them as free ways to interact with friends, but we forget that these are companies that prioritize making money. If we’re not paying for the service, someone is, and they are advertisements that we are supposed to see. To optimize how much money they make, the documentary puts it simply, they do whatever they can to appeal to our interests and to keep us on the screen for as long as possible. They do this through listening to us, push notifications that don’t give as much information as they could, requiring you to open the app and many other methods to keep us on their app for as long as possible.

There are consequences to showing people only what they want to see. One of these side effects is shown in the polarization of political ideas. The documentary showed a graph that showed how moderate each political party was before the age of social media and after, with extreme polarizing effects to each sides’ political views. The aftermath of showing people information that only coincides with what they already believe in, causing people to think that anyone that thinks differently from them is completely wrong. In their defense, if they are only given information from one side and in some cases even false information, then it is easy to believe they are completely correct. People failing to see the whole view of any sort of political idea is very dangerous and they say it can even be an attack on democracy.

The Social Dilemma has definitely encouraged me to spend less time on my phone and the dangers that it presents are undeniably frightening for our future.

Image courtesy of Today Testing.