Social media has become such an integral part of our daily lives. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world right now without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. Research even suggests that 61% of people check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up. This number is quite surprising because it shows just how much social media takes precedence in our lives. With something this big taking over our lives, it’s just normal for people to start raising questions about its impact on our lives. Recently, Netflix came out with The Social Dilemma, a tell-all documentary on the effects and machinations of social media today. This Netflix original documentary has been creating some buzz-worthy noise and this is because it is so relevant nowadays. Here are the main reasons why The Social Dilemma is one of the most relevant films today.
It Shows that “Free” Comes With a Price
You might be wondering how these social media platforms make money when they are all downloadable for free. You might be surprised to find out that the content we assume available for free is actually being paid for by advertisers. The documentary actually explains that social media platforms make most of their money from advertisements. Big companies pay these social media platforms to display their ads. According to Facebook, Facebook is an “ads-supported platform”, which means that selling ads allows them to offer everyone else the ability to connect for free.
I’m sure you’ve been annoyed by those repetitive, seemingly irrelevant ads at one point. On the other hand, those ads could have also helped you find something you wanted and liked. The point is, whether or not you click an ad or buy something because of that ad, Facebook, Instagram and the likes still get paid.
It Shows that User Privacy is Not Really Private
Have you ever had a conversation with someone about those new shoes you’ve been eyeing, and suddenly an ad of those shoes appear on your Facebook? Ever searched something on google, and that something turns up on your Instagram feed? Creepy, right? The Social Dilemma reveals that social media platforms actually have a way of knowing these things about you through a special algorithm. This algorithm watches, monitors, and measures everything you do online. They can tell what you’ve been watching on YouTube, what ad you’ve clicked, and even who’s profile page you’ve visited. In short, this algorithm can predict a user’s behavioral and psychological patterns. The question is why and what for? The answer to this comes next…
If You’re Not Paying for the Product, You are the Product
All of the data gathered on each user is then used to build a model on them. They say social media companies have 3 goals: engagement, growth, and advertising. Social media platforms then target and manipulate its users just to achieve those 3 goals. Engagement happens by keeping people to scroll through the application. Growth happens with more users. Advertising happens when users are manipulated into buying or supporting a specific product, service, or even an entire belief system. This means that advertisers are not really paying for ads. Instead, advertisers are paying to get our attention and to get us to buy whatever it is they are selling.
It Connects Social Media and Mental Health
Social media addiction, depression, and anxiety are some of the most dangerous effects of excessive social media usage. Social media platforms take advantage of our need to connect with people in order to get us to constantly use their platforms. According to the documentary, Gen Z is the worst affected because they are the first generation in history to get have phones in middle school.
Social media platforms also affect our mental health because of how they focus on having the ‘perfect’, filtered life. This leads to people comparing their lives with others, and ultimately feeling bad for not measuring up. The concept of ‘likes’ also encourages people to feel validated by the number of likes on their posts.
It Reveals a Field of Study Called “Growth Hacking”
Growth hacking, as explained in The Social Dilemma, is a branch of marketing that focuses on “hacking” into the psychology of users in order to acquire and grow user engagement. This will ultimately lead to more advertisers, and of course more money. The documentary portrays this field of study as a very manipulative and unregulated field that is actually being taught in schools.
These are the most relevant issues tackled in Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that definitely serve as an eye-opener for many of us. This calls us to be more cautious and aware of the things we see on social media, especially since those things were curated specifically for each user.