It’s become public knowledge that social media lures us in by dangling a carrot of temptation in front of us, and rewarding us with a dopamine hit when we reach for it.
Whether its the likes on your Instagram post, a reply to your email, or a clickbait title with unfulfilling content, we all reach for something online guaranteed to give us something, and waste more time than we mean to.
Is social media actually something much darker than that though?
Netflix’s new documentary, The Social Dilemma, certainly believes so.
A variety of tech wizards who have worked with industry giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, give extensive interviews, discussing the issues they helped create, and now engage with in their daily lives, just like everyone else.
They see it as a fact, that society is becoming addicted to technology, and they recognise that its because they built it that way.
From encouraging you to tag friends, in order to keep your engagement with the site, pulling down the feed to refresh, and endlessly scrolling down the screen, everything about these apps is designed to hold your attention for as long as possible.
Why are free apps trying to keep us using them for as long as possible? The Social Dilemma argues that its because if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.
While many think artificial intelligence and algorithms exist to provide you with what you want to see, perhaps it more useful for these companies to be able to guide you to what they want you to see, and any internet user can tell you that companies want us to see, and engage with, an advertisement that they’re paid to host.
Not only that, these algorithms and AI force us to further engage with apps and sites, because they build a complete picture of us as people, and know perhaps even better than ourselves, what we’re most likely to stop and read or watch.
The documentary also looks at the very real world impact of the goals these companies have, outside of tricking us into spending hours engaging with them.
In some countries, riots and protests have broken out over entirely untrue statements and news shared across Facebook.
Suicide rates in young girls have skyrocketed since smart phones became daily commodities in 2010.
They even approach the radical divide that has been emerging between political supporters in America, which has only become more volatile since Twitter and Facebook became a part of the average humans morning routine.
This documentary certainly doesn’t hold anything back, and brings home some real truths for anyone who uses social media, or the internet as a whole.
The Social Dilemma ends by approaching the audience, becoming Our Social Dilemma, presenting the idea that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own technology usage, and highlighting that public pressure often leads the path to real change.
If you use a smart phone, this documentary is guaranteed to make you think about why, and how you use it.