THE SOCIAL DILEMMA
‘The Social Dilemma’ is a documentary available on Netflix that unveils the dark side of social media platforms. Director Jeff Orlowski interviewed men and women who helped build these social media algorithms. These people had been a part of some high profile tech companies like; Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and many more. The extent of the situation can be measured by the fact that the people responsible for developing these platforms are themselves afraid of their negative effect on mental health and the foundations of Democracy.
The two most important questions asked were “What is the problem?” and “How did it happen?” The irony is that there is no specific problem and not one person is responsible. Every individual who was part of creating these algorithms and let the negative aspects surpass has contributed to this problem. A problem that might be a threat to mankind.
“Never before in history have 50 designers made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people”, said Tristan Harris (former design Ethicist- Google) on being asked why he feels that increasing technology and artificial intelligence can prove to be fatal.
The Documentary emphasizes what all is wrong with the Tech Industry; a cacophony of grievances, scandals, data stealing, tech addiction, polarization, fake news and elections getting hacked. The major problem is that the Fake News being spread is not just fake news but it is fake news with consequences. Cases of mob lynching and riots being instigated by fake news have been seen around the world. Further, forcing us to address this issue.
Harris suggests that Ethical Designing should be included in development to make these sites user-friendly. It was pointed out that some of these creators believe that ‘our attention’ is the product being sold to the advertisers. Yet, some believe that it is not that simple, it is the ability to change our perception that is making these tech companies the richest.
The three main goals of these tech companies are; Engagement, Growth, and Advertising. They use several means to increase the screen time of the users, this helps the social media platforms grow, hence earning excessive money from advertisements. The main tool being used by these companies is Manipulation. They exploit the vulnerability of the human psyche by manipulating people’s psychology.
What’s more crucial is that the developers themselves were falling victim to these platforms, despite knowing the whole working behind it. They further clarified that invasion of privacy is not a bug but a conscious feature being used by these companies. This helps them to not just predict but also to influence our decisions. Users often fall prey to advertisers and propaganda. The fact that these algorithms are not sensitive to a child’s psyche has led to a significant increase in depression and anxiety among teenagers. Social Media pushes them to seek social approval which further instigates self-worth issues among them.
The documentary is alarming as well as effective. It will force you to introspect and question certain choices you’d been making unconsciously. People are already aware of these problems but this documentary provides a detailed insight about the atrocities of Social Media, being told by the makers themselves.
This piece is written By Nehal Thakur