‘The Social Dilemma’ Examines Social Media Consumption

In the new documentary on Netflix produced by Jeff Orlowski, “The Social Dilemma” digs deep and shows how social media companies are run to keep users engaged and how it has plagued our society. It gets very dark in the way companies have manipulated our minds into spending more time on social media.

There are different speakers throughout this documentary that include the creators and designers of companies from Twitter, Facebook, and Google. They explain exactly how their company has manipulated people into spending more time on social media, whether it is through ads or scrolling. For example, when Facebook added the feature of being able to tag people into photos, people were instantly alerted that they had been tagged in a photo and their natural instinct was to look at what the photo is. The person then wants to comment underneath the photo and this further enhances the manipulation of the creator getting the consumer to spend more time on their platform. 

The power of scrolling was also mentioned in the documentary and how it affects the production of dopamine in our brains. When we pull down the refresh button, there is always going to be something new, so this enhances a psychological term called “positive reinforcement” because we are awarded with more new information that we have not read or seen yet. Because of being able to see something new every time we refresh our feeds, we are constantly wanting to do it more often. I know I have fallen victim to this because everytime I’m about to log off of Twitter, I make sure to refresh multiple times before closing the app. This is exactly what producers do in order to keep us using social media more and more. 

This documentary also highlights the negative effects of growing up with social media. It highlighted a family that lived in the suburbs and the youngest daughter had doubts about her appearance constantly. Additionally, she could not get off her phone at all when she was at home. The teenage son wanted to ask a girl he liked on a date but his phone chimed and he immediately stopped paying attention to the girl. 

There was a hypothetical scenario that illustrated the way companies and machines track your data when on social media. The platform this scenario was mimicking was not disclosed, but it is safe to say that they were using something similar to Instagram and Twitter. Three people were giving the teenage son notifications of friends and even the girl he liked to keep him more engaged with his phone. These requests included a close friend joining the platform and suggesting him to follow them. Every time the son looked at the phone and checked these notifications, it was profiting the company.

While social media has some negative effects, there are also some positive outcomes of it, such as the ability to store pictures there for later reference. We can connect with friends who may live in a different country and can be instantly messaged back without an international charging fee. However, it is always notable to take a break when social media begins to get too overwhelming and limit the amount of time you spend on social media. While it is very accessible to use, we miss valuable moments in real life that social media can rob us from.