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Social Dilemma – Make Your Feed Matter

by Weronika Pukrop

Control, surveillance, propaganda – Social Media is not just pretty pictures on Instagram. Technology is thrilling and provides endless opportunities, however, the trick is knowing how to use it properly. How to make the best use of your social channels and what 'Social Dilemma' experts are warning us about

We are all addicted to social media. Before trying to oppose this statement, let’s have a look at facts, because the numbers don’t lie – scientists confirm that using social media is comparable with receiving a dose of dopamine straight to your system. Besides, ask yourself a question: When was the last time you spent the entire day without looking at the screen of your phone or computer?

The Problematic Face of Social Media

There has been numerous studies showing how the wrong use of technology, especially social media platforms can be the cause of raising issues of mental health, such as anxiety or depression, as well as low self-esteem or FOMO (the fear of missing out). After all, not being part of those platforms means that you will miss on events, jokes, connections or even friendships. Right?

Those factors can lead to more advanced issues and the feeling of loneliness. A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study proved that using social platforms actually increases the feeling of isolation. Moreover, we mustn’t forget about another important issue that the use of social media can cause: Low self-esteem. According to researchers from McLean Hospital, it’s not simply enough to remove the ‘likes’ from Facebook or Instagram to tackle the problem, as there still would be the major anxiety factor – comparison. Whoever is without the ‘sin’ of never having scrolled through their phone and think worse of themselves because the life of others seemed simply better than their own, cast the first stone.

Social Dilemma

In January of this year a now very famous documentary had its premiere. ‘Social Dilemma’ dropped a major bombshell on many people’s lives and their perception of social channels. Because we all know, more or less, that those platforms can be damaging, but not everyone is aware of just how much. The film features experts, all from the fields of technology and media, including the former president of Pinterest, the ‘like button’ creator at Facebook and many other industry giants. One of them talks about how when a ‘user’ refreshes the ‘feed’ of any platform, there has to always be a fresh, new content awaiting for them. This way, we can never get bored of scrolling! Another crucial aspect that is being discussed in the film, is the use of manipulative techniques in politics through social media channels. One of the experts, Tristan Harris, explains how the spread of fake news and propaganda can influence political campaigns. As an example, he used the coverage of COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers of spreading unregulated information.

Apart from the previously mentioned risks that come with using social media, the movie emphasises that the users are merely money-spending machines, who are supposed to drive the consumerism and make profit for companies. We are presented with personalized ads and content that’s encouraging us to purchase certain products or services. Of course, it wouldn’t be so bad, after all that’s what advertising is for. If we could only take the addictive and mental-health damaging factors out!

Not All Is Lost 

Good news is – we can. Despite the risks and clear disadvantages, the ‘Social Dilemma’ documentary leaves us quite hopeful: the change is possible. Social media doesn’t necessarily have to be all bad. Technology is not pure evil, quite the opposite! As the robotics and AI expert, Kenza Ait Si Abbou said in her recent interview with FemaleOneZero, “The dangerous thing is not the technology itself, but how we use it”. That sentiment is absolutely right; after all, tech brought and continues to bring inexplainable amount of profit, advantages and development of which, otherwise, we could only be dreaming of. We shouldn’t by any means be afraid of technology, but we should alter how we use it. 

You Are the Master of Your Social Channels

Easier said than done? That’s only partly true. As difficult as it may seem, there are ways to make your social media adventure a safer one. First things first: Imposing control. Check each app usage on your phone and after you’re done gathering your jaw from the floor (don’t worry, no one really realises how much time they spend on their phone) try to establish a realistic goal of how to improve that number. When you are using social media, try to make your followed content matter. Let’s be honest – you won’t feel good having your feed flooded by pictures of overly successful 20-year-old surfer living in Bali if you’re not an overly successful 20-year-old surfer living in Bali. Try to fill your social media with content that makes you inspired and joyful rather than stressed. Follow accounts that try to make a change in the world, care about environment or maybe the ones that post about important social issues. Instead of putting you in a self-loathing slump, they will perhaps inspire you to take action.

Post less

Don’t ever forget: Nothing that goes online is private. Be in control of what and how often you are posting. Moreover, be the example for others. Don’t alter your reality, because its raw version is good enough. You and no one else is in charge of your content, set the tone of what you want to spread in the world.

Delete & Repeat 

Apart from filtering who you follow on social media, make sure you do the same with your phone as a whole. You really don’t need 100 apps. Try to erase as many as you can from your device – after all, if they are not there you can’t check them. Simple yet genius (and, spoiler alert, difficult). The same goes for notifications. Instead of having alarm for each Instagram post, Facebook event or Twitter like, let you phone be as quiet as it’s never been before. Because, another revelation, if it’s not buzzing or lighting up, it will decrease your urge to interact with it.

That’s a Wrap (And a Beginning)

Social media is as vast, broad and deep as a Black Hole and to tackle the topic completely we would need many more pages. However, the key takeaways are that no one can make this change but you. Firstly, make sure to establish you priorities and your health, especially mental-health should always be at the top of the list. Secondary, if you haven’t’ yet, go watch ‘Social Dilemma’, let it scare you a little bit and begin your journey of using technology how it was supposed to be used – to benefit you.

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