A Conversation Surrounding The Social Dilemma on Netflix

The new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma exposes the dark side of our technological world. By interviewing former employees of top technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Instagram, this documentary sheds light on the multi-faceted world of the internet and social media. It  covers the connection between mental health and the rise of smartphones in 2010 and 2011. Before watching this documentary, I was aware of the psychological effects of liking posts on Instagram, as our brain gets a rush of dopamine. However, as our country went into lockdown and I had more time to spend on my phone, I was not aware of how many hours I was on my phone every day. Watching this documentary forced me to face the ugly truth: while social media is able to connect people from all parts of the world and provide all sorts of useful information in our daily lives, we also need to confront the fact that we are glued to our screens, failing to understand that human beings need social interactions face to face for our own personal mental health. We also need to be aware of the information we are processing and who we are receiving the information from.  

When thinking about our daily routines, what is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? You probably turn off your alarm (which is on your phone) and then you check your text messages, email notifications, and your social media feeds. Now, you notice you got a new text message. Clicking on the message icon, you notice your friend is typing. Side note: did you ever wonder why the three dots were incorporated into chats? Developers know when the other person is typing you will stay on your screen, waiting for their message to send! The simplest of things can cause us to stay on our screens, longer than we possibly need to.

Original Illustration in Canva for Her Campus Media

Heading to the bathroom, you brush your teeth (while scrolling on your Instagram feed). You start to go down the social media rabbit hole, as Instagram wants you to stay on their app as long as possible. From your recommended advertisements to seeing people tagged in photos, it is very easy to get sucked into all the accounts. The next thing you know, you’ve been “brushing your teeth” for 20 minutes. Also, ever wonder when you get a notification from Instagram or Facebook on your phone’s lock screen, why it never shows the photo you were tagged in? Going into the app to see the photo is a great strategy to increase the time you spend inside the app. Notifications are wired for instant gratification, the need to check again and again and again.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I also would like to bring up the importance of internet sources. It is really easy to follow people with similar thoughts and opinions to our own. We think everyone thinks the same way we do. I would encourage you to follow people you may disagree with to see the other side. Being informed of both sides helps us make our own decisions. For one of my classes, I watched the TedTalk, “The Danger of the Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award-winning Nigerian author. She discussed the danger of only hearing one side to a story, failing to understand that one single story does not represent all opinions, experiences, etc. We should be switching to different news channels, having meaningful conversations with people who disagree with us, so we can clearly identify the full picture.

After watching The Social Dilemma, I took my phone and deleted the apps that caused me to spend so many unnecessary hours on my phone (yes, I deleted Instagram and YouTube). Finding the balance between connecting with old friends, watching that funny YouTube video, and being consciously aware of how social networking affects our overall well-being is important for our own sanity. We cannot let our phones have so much power over the way we think, feel, and act.