The Social Dilemma documentary opened my ignorant mind to the reality of the internet and social media. I have always been aware that the internet collects information about me, but I didn’t know where the information went. That idea that the internet can’t do me any harm made me shrug off the fact that the internet was collecting information about me. However, this documentary made me realize I was, like the boy, was becoming hypnotized and addicted.
One major piece of information that worried me the most was that our generation is becoming more insecure — hospitalization due to self-harm and suicide rates are higher than ever, and no one seems to be confident in themselves anymore. We are exposed to an ocean of information, but as tweens or teens, we haven’t yet fully developed the ability to discern helpful information from the rest. We are vulnerable, and this quality of our generation is exactly what tech companies are exploiting. In some ways, this is a negative feedback cycle; they generate algorithms to exacerbate our anxiety, stripping us of our identity, which acts as a fuel for them to generate profit. This scenario seems like it would happen in a sci-fi dystopian movie, where what makes us human is objectified and used to generate profit.
The documentary also shed light on how society is more polarized than ever, due to the constant indoctrination of extreme beliefs that seem to enforce our biases, turning us into one of those racing horses with blinkers (fig. 1).
The documentary said democracy was at risk because other nations, without infiltrating a nation’s borders, can directly influence the results of an election using social media platforms to instigate turbulence and instability. The Rwandan genocide and Russian interference in the American election are examples of democracy at risk. Individuals do not know which story to believe, and they accept false information as the truth. Politics is now less focused on improving the nation for its citizens but on sabotaging the opposition and gaining popularity. This polarization in politics is a direct consequence of the easily exploitable platform made by tech companies.
Who should take the blame? The documentary suggests tech companies, but I believe the blame, a little bit of it at least, is on us. We need to learn how to restrict ourselves and constantly question what we see online. This could be through a simple Google search to see different perspectives on an issue or to find other reliable sources that deal with the same topic. Doing this for every single thing we are exposed to is tiring, especially if we are tired or just don’t care as much. Our group discussed some of our human qualities (for example laziness) that make us susceptible to traps set by tech companies. On the other hand, tech companies designed this platform, and they should take responsibility for what they created. Even through it was originally made for spreading positivity and finding a way for people to connect with each other, the problem now lies in their profit model, where everything is justified if it makes profit. Therefore, I thought that taxing companies on the amount of data they process was a good idea, only if they are taxed proportionally to their revenue.
McKee, Sophia. “A Horse with Blinkers.” Emerald Racing Club, 21 June 2015, emeraldracingclub.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/blinkers.