I work with disadvantaged young people between the ages of 16 and 18 and having watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, I felt the need to put my thoughts into this blog as a way to offer suggestions on how to solve the dilemma but first for those who haven’t seen it, let me give you a brief overview.
Social media like Instagram and Facebook that were once a fun way to engage with family and friends, are now being used, according to the contributors to the programme, to manipulate people and help advertisers make money. They use scientifically and psychologically proven algorithms to grab your attention and guide you to make decisions and form beliefs for their benefit.
Some young people and some adults are addicted to social media, with the effects being raised anxiety and lack of sleep, and one person taking a stand against the way social media manipulates people, is Tristan Harris and appears in the documentary. According to his website http://www.tristenharris.com, his is called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist developing a framework for how technology should “ethically” steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens. He is now co-founder & president of the Center for Humane Technology, whose mission is to reverse ‘human downgrading’ and re-align technology with humanity. Additionally, he is co-host of the Center for Humane Technology’s Your Undivided Attention podcast with co-founder Aza Raskin.
I like the term “reverse ‘human downgrading’ and realign with humanity’ and believe he is referring to reversing our addiction to social media and somehow re-align social media to present itself in a way that supports the growth and development of humans in a positive way, rather than in a manipulative manner that is leading to dissonance between cultures, politics and other groups of people.
I have a five year old and he’s blissfully unaware of the dangers of social media and I’m conscious to protect him and educate him in other ways like reading books, playing games and helping him grow into a rounded individual…so far so good apart from when he loses at games!
Solving the social dilemma starts with solving the self and by that I mean, understanding each of us can choose what we read and what we listen to and how we behave, yet many of us go into autopilot mode, scrolling through social media, absorbing the content and forming new ideas and beliefs about the world around us and our social media circle.
The solution isn’t in trying to convince the social media platforms to change the content or algorithms but in learning to consciously choose what to read, listen to and how to act.
We can’t control what others think and do but we can control what we think and do and that knowledge is powerful when you learn how to use it to your advantage, especially when it comes to taking control back against social media manipulation.
People under-estimate the power of their mind because the power of the mind in the sense of controlling what you think and how you act, isn’t taught in schools or colleges unless you’re studying psychology or a similar subject, but instead we are trained to do as we are told and are conditioned to do so while at school and college.
We are told where to go, what to study, what happens when we fail and we learn success is linked to achieving a grade. Success should not be linked to a grade but how we manage relationships, how we overcome adversity, how we learn self-respect, and learning how we can choose to think and act to events that present themselves, either good or bad.
For example, if I told you somewhere within this blog, there is a link would take you to a site that showed you a cute cat, would you click it or not?
But before you go looking, let me tell you, before I mentioned the cat, you had no idea or thought about a cute cat so by merely placing that idea before you, you changed your thoughts and are now considering to take action.
This is how social media manipulates you. They put an idea or concept in front of you that before, you had no intention of considering, but now they have you intrigued and that intrigue can be enough to make you click that link and absorb the information and once you start down that rabbit hole, some find it difficult to come back out.
But what if I were to tell you, you do have a choice. You aren’t obligated to continue that journey. You can choose to consciously tell yourself to stop.
If we are to beat the social dilemma, we have to take control of our thoughts and actions and be conscious in the moment. It takes practice but it can be done.
By the way, there is no link to a cute cat. Sorry