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The Social Dilemma - A Netflix Movie

“Someone just commented under my last post. Let me check it very quickly…”.

Let’s be honest, we all know that “very quickly” will turn out to be an hour long scroll through nonsense images and videos. Don’t lie to yourself, you have been there too. We all did.

However, this may not be completely your fault. Why? Well, this is what the movie the “Social Dilemma” is all about.

Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives.”

“The Social Dilemma” is a Netflix docu-film that highlights how the most famous social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) work on a business model based on tracking users’ behavior in order to sell targeted ads and induce addiction in a vicious cycle.

The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, features the voices of technologists, researchers and activists working to align technology with the interests of humanity (Tristan Harris, Jaron Lanier, Tim Kendall and many other). The film blends interviews with tech experts, including many former employees of Silicon Valley giants, with a fictionary story illustrating the negative effects of social media. These platforms use data not just to create personalized recommendations but also to predict and influence our actions. This manipulation obviously causes a bias in our information ecosystem and sense of truth.

What emerges as a striking issue, is the power that the marketing behind all the posts and tags that we come across everyday has on each one of us and how these giants are able to manipulate our decisions.

Remarkable is also the pressure that is put on the fact that privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms.

This movie is a great example of how powerful marketing can be, but also how dangerous it can become if not used properly.

Often, when scrolling hundreds of posts on any social media, we think that we are just passively watching them, without caring too much about their meaning. The reality, however, is quite different. Even if many of us are unaware of what is actually happening, we are constantly engaged in a series of marketing campaigns that “shape” our thoughts and influence our behaviours both as consumers and as people. If we follow food pages, we will often see restaurants or kitchen gadgets ads, if we follow fitness pages, we will encounter Nike or Adidas ads and so on. Why do we say that this is dangerous? Well, it does not necessarily refer to us buying Nike shoes, but it has to do with us not being able to make a proper decision for ourselves (we are always influenced). And this applies to our expenses as much as to our voting patterns. Everyone will remember the 2016 US elections during which Russia “simply used” Facebook to influence the outcome of the election.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, “we can design a better internet,”said Tristan. Governments could enact stricter laws around privacy on social media and companies could reorient to deeper connections with fewer people rather than encouraging unlimited share. We could tax data collection, there could be a shift toward what in the movie is referred to as “data dignity”. However, there is already something that we can do on a daily basis in order to improve our social media experience and become better educated users:

  1. turn off notifications

  2. uninstall time-wasting apps

  3. fact-check before you share sources

  4. follow people with different views than us

  5. don't watch what the recommendation algorithms suggest

Written by: Eleonora Marchini

Edited by: Nicola Curci



https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/sep/08/the-social-dilemma-netflix-internet-tech-film https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/19/the-social-dilemma-a-wake-up-call-for-a-world-drunk-on-dopamine https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/09/movies/the-social-dilemma-review.html https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/21/netflix-movie-the-social-dilemma-slams-social-media-review.html

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