Unpacking The Social Dilemma

Chances are that you’ve seen a lot of posts and articles recently about The Social Dilemma, the latest documentary on social media and its issues.

If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, here’s the trailer to give you a quick idea about the Netflix documentary’s premise.

It’s not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. I’ve watched it twice and as someone who works in digital marketing and who follows social media and digital news regularly, I didn’t feel as though it added anything new but it was a shock to my family because they weren’t fully aware about platforms and their algorithms, among the other topics the documentary highlighted.

The thing I found to be the most fascinating was the way the platforms’ manipulation is depicted. It offers a clearer understanding of the binary work at play and gives us a glimpse into the Artificial Intelligence behind the pretty images, funny videos, and incendiary posts. This is told through a dramatised scenario showing the tactics they use and how tech companies have influenced elections, ethnic violence and rates of depression and suicide. 

Frankly, though, the way they present the documentary in a more harrowing that the content within, especially when it comes to the interviews with tech founders who are crying crocodile tears of regret and statements of concern. I may be just too jaded after hearing, reading, and watching the same performances for years in the press and courts without any concrete steps afterwards to actually address and fix the issues that are being decried.

The truth is, nothing will change because there isn’t enough motivation to force through the changes needed. Not from the people using the same social networks to criticise them to the tech companies themselves to the governments.

This might be a harsh, simplistic black and white viewpoint, but I really hate it when people try to minimise or dodge responsibility for mistakes they’ve made or decisions they’ve taken. I also don’t tolerate empty words of apology. If I screw up, I own up to it and take proper measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I believe that tech companies need to implement strict guidelines and measures to prevent what;s currently happening from continuing or happening again. If that means a loss of freedom of speech when it comes to hate speech, misinformation, slander etc. then that’s fine by me.

I know that this is a potential double-edged sword, but a tiny part of me still believes that this is salvageable somehow.

Otherwise, we may end up doing a global “switch off and switch it back on” and just reboot everything.

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