Growing up, my favorite movie was “Peter Pan” because the idea of never having to grow up was so exhilarating to my young, imaginative and curious mind. As I’ve grown into a creative adult, I’ve continued to find myself envious of this fictional persona because my youth was stripped away abruptly, not because of adult experiences, but because of social media.
The purest pleasantries – like playing outside, climbing trees, racing bicycles down hills or making friends with neighbors – were gone in an instant when Big Tech convinced today’s youth that the glorified light from our little screens should own our focus and adoration. As humans, we should be bothered by this anti-social evolution; but instead, these social media monsters are continuing to battle for our attention and make media into today’s digital pacifiers.
“The Social Dilemma” is a new documentary on Netflix that inspired me to speak out about these thieves of adolescence we call social media platforms.
“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable, or lonely, or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves,” said former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris on “The Social Dilemma,” a central source in the documentary. “That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.”
“The Social Dilemma” unveils this unfortunate reality by gathering together some of the most intelligent computer scientists, ethicists and designers of our time to speak of the incredible yet consequential terror that social media has become.
Social media has been celebrated over the past decade as if it is some sort of sorcery that cast a magical spell on society. Although, people neglect to mention how Snapchat has caused physical dysmorphia, how real social connections have been stripped from society, how humanity has a polished perception of society, the wrong perception of body image, more violence, fake news with consequences, pandemics, racism, fear, discrimination, depression and suicide. Yet, our society still sees social media as an asset and chooses to turn a blind eye from reality: we’re all addicted to our phones.
It should concern you, as it does me, that large enterprises like Google, Apple, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are all fighting to win our attention through the strategic curation of algorithms. Even the geniuses who have worked for these large corporations in the past have developed a fear of the incredible yet invasive creation that social media has become.
The things that we see on our various feeds are not there by accident, but instead are there because someone behind another screen, someplace in the world, is trying to keep you captivated. They want to keep you locked into their applications, even if that means upsetting you by inserting a photograph of your ex or creating self-consciousness in you by strategically placing a photo of a woman with an unrealistic body type. “It’s a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures,” said professor emeritus Shoshana Zuboff of Business Administration at Harvard University on The Social Dilemma.
They know what you are searching for, they know what you are feeling, they know what brings you down, they know what keeps you interested and they know what will keep you from moving on to another application. The thing that they don’t know, is when all of it will break you. In the end, it isn’t about you; it is all about money, power and greed.
I find it hard to believe that it gets worse than that, but it does. They track how long you have looked at each post, they know when you’ve been stalking your ex-partners, if you’re introverted, extroverted and all this data are being collected to wrap you in another inch further, day-by-day. They want us to think that we are collecting and developing popularity, even though at the end of the day this popularity is brittle and fake.
This perception of a need for popularity, likes and comments is what has led to spikes in suicide rates, depression, anxiety and unnecessary social nervousness. According to The Social Dilemma, between 2010-2011 suicide rates went up 62% for teen girls and older, and 189% for preteen girls. Individuals born after 1996 were the first to embrace social media in middle school and spend more time on their devices, which has led to a complete enthrallment in the realm of social media.
I have three younger siblings and I know from experience that each of them would rather sit and watch mindless YouTube videos all day than ever think to open the imaginative pages of a book. It’s almost like we have to pay this generation of children to read, write and play outside because they are so imprisoned by the screens that surround them.
This has become detrimental to the development of youth. The “Peter Pan” mentality in this generation has vanished and I have noticed that children yearn to grow up. They yearn to dress like adults, listen to adult music, watch adult shows, eat adult food and partake in adult activities. The enthrallment of youthfulness is dwindling out of society and creativity is being stolen from children who deserve to formulate ideas of their own.
I wake up each day and check my phone immediately, I bring my phone to the bathroom with me, I watch Netflix while I shower, I listen to music whenever I drive, I text all day and I go on social media whenever boredom creeps up on me. I have been affected by this too and I want it to stop, for all of us.
They cannot have control over our thoughts, emotions, actions, opinions, beliefs or the way we view ourselves if we choose to take the power away from them. My advice is to stop putting filters on photos, stop posting photos for the audience, start reading, start creating, start writing your thoughts, start communicating in person, start putting your phone down and start to realize that there is a deeper problem with the intelligence of social media.
The action we can take as humanity is to lead as an example for the younger generations. Educate children enough for them to realize that their shallow popularity online where they portray an altered version of themselves doesn’t matter, nor does it really exist. What matters for today is not handing over the money, power or the attention to industries that never think twice about the end user’s feelings, thoughts, actions or emotions.
“The Social Dilemma” documentary can be found on Netflix. It has accelerated my already declining opinion about social media, and I hope it sparks the same effect in you.
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