I came across a documentary on Netflix a few days ago and decided to watch it, and I have to say, it really got me lost in my own thoughts. The Social Dilemma, is a “documentary-drama hybrid” that looks into the dangers of social network platforms, warned by the tech creators themselves. Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers here. Instead, I would like to share some of the quotes that stuck with me; maxims by the many tech insiders featured in this docudrama which may also get you to start reflecting upon your personal experience with social media platforms.
1. “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” —Sophocles
The convenience and the many benefits the internet has brought upon the human race is great. We can’t deny the fact that the internet allows us to do so many things, and potentially more than we could ever imagine. However, we tend to be too naive, and perhaps a little ignorant about the flip side to this coin.
During a period of exponential growth, there is always a good side and a bad side. Someone is standing up to expose, publicize, and try their best to make people aware of the harmful side of the internet. Human development has always been slowly adapting to such good and bad things. It used to be, and it will continue to be as such in the future.
2. “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.”— Jaron Lanier
This is probably my favorite quote from this documentary. For those mega technology companies, us users are not, or never, the customers. The real customers are the companies that advertise, and our time and attention are the products, which are packaged and sold. In order to get our attention, these companies do everything they can to use a large amount of data analysis to push us into what we most likely want to see. The result is that we live in a false and simulated world where we only see what we want to see – or should I say, what they want us to see. It turns out, we all live in invisible boxes made for ourselves.
The development of these technologies seems to have exceeded people’s control. In the internet age, it seems that everyone’s world has become broader, but it is not true. We are more likely to be tightly bound to a certain value and norm without consciously knowing about it.
3. “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” — Edward Tufte
In some ways, the internet and social media are like drugs, they are just as addictive as drugs. Yet, some of us just can’t seem to get rid of it. Thanks to all the data analyses, the companies know how to keep us scrolling and liking pictures, the longer we stay online, the more they know about us. Just like a cycle, it will never end. It’s a reminder of the power these platforms have over our lives; they are in fact controlling us, and most of us do not even realize that.
I have to admit that, for me, life without the internet will be horrifying. If you take away all my electronic devices and ask me to spend a day without them, I would not know what to do at all.
So, how exactly are we supposed to escape the control of social media?
// Don’t bring your mobile phone into your bedroom
// Set the time and boundaries of your use of electronic devices
// Delete social network accounts
// Don’t click any referral links
// Use search engines that don’t record search history
// Don’t just follow people with the same opinions as you.
Difficult they sure are, I know. And it’s really easier said than done. But the thought of knowing that for each click you make, a stake will have been made; and somehow that one click had possibly contrived to the longevity of this surveillance society we live in today. The Social Dilemma will definitely put you in the spot as it did to me, and as it’s title itself had set out to do from the start.