The new Netflix documentary 'The Social Dilemma' explores the dangerous manipulative tactics social media uses to keep its users engaged. Algorithms pinpoint users' identities and interests, they are encouraged to engage constantly with notification pings, and they're directed to more volatile content to drive engagement. This content creates more niche groups and can radicalize isolate people. This has created a culture of political and social divide.
As a person who has worked in social media for a long time, the revelations revealed in the documentary are important to be seen by people who regularly use social media. It is especially dangerous for children, as their developing brains can become hooked to the wrong kind of positive affirmation. Worse, it amplifies the most combative voices in the culture, elevating them from the fringe to the mainstream. Q Anon, #Pizzagate, and even the Trump presidency are all the end result of an industry that cares more about clicks and engagement than the cost to society, and the documentary profiles several high-level managers and engineers who created this system and strive to change the course.
For those who want to curtail your social media engagement, but aren't quite ready to completely disconnect, here are a few tips to get started.
1) Disable notifications
The core component of a social media strategist is engagement and notifications does half the job for them. People see a pop-up on their phone and they click in, where they get snagged by more content. Disabling your notifications means you'll naturally spend less time in social media spaces and won't develop an impulse to reach for your phone any time you're slightly bored.
2) Do not click on "you may also like" links on YouTube and other platforms.
Every time you click on a recommended link from a YouTube video or whatever, you're helping the algorithms build a profile that they can use to further manipulate you, serve you ads, and otherwise become a more intrusive presence in your life. To help limit this, make sure you select your own content and resist algorithm suggestions.
3) Remember that no social media service is actually free.
Most of us have never spent a dime on social media directly. It's not like you have to pay money for an Instagram account or anything like that. instead, the costs are covered by advertisers. This gives them access to essentially a targeted audience of potential consumers.
In short, if you're not paying for the product, you ARE the product.
4) Create times in the day where all phones are off.
Keep phones out of the bedroom. Take Monday off social media. Ban social media from the table. Actively establish times to isolate yourself will help keep you grounded out of social media's influence.
Check out the trailer below. And let us know what suggestions you might have to help curb the influence of social media.