The Social Dilemma Virtual Tour: February 25

By Neenah Payne

Register for DIGITAL RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS: The continued threat of Big Social’s business model which will air online for free on February 25 from 1-2 PM EST with human rights experts and unreleased clips from the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. In the film, tech insiders explain how their products are causing “unintended” serious harm to people and society.

The Tour is a series of conversations with people who are building a humane tech future. They are helping us understand the impact of the dilemma and are working to change how technology is designed, regulated, and used. In a time when technology has become our lifeline, it is more important than ever to examine the role it plays in our lives and realign it with the interests of people, not profits.

See the upcoming Featured Community Conversations below.

Social Media Poses Three Serious Dilemmas

The Dilemma site explains “Technology’s promise to keep us connected has given rise to a host of unintended consequences that are catching up with us. If we can’t address our broken information ecosystem, we’ll never be able to address the challenges that plague humanity.”

The site discusses the following three dilemmas posed by social media:

  1. The Mental Health Dilemma: A 5,000 person study found that higher social media use correlates with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction. Persuasive design techniques like push notifications and the endless scroll of your newsfeed create a feedback loop that keeps us glued to our devices.
  2. The Democracy Dilemma: The number of countries with political disinformation campaigns on social media doubled in the past 2 years. Social media advertising gives anyone the opportunity to reach huge numbers of people with phenomenal ease, giving bad actors the tools to sow unrest and fuel political divisions.
  3. The Discrimination Dilemma: 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there. Algorithms promote content that sparks outrage, hate, and amplifies biases within the data that we feed them.

See the trailer of The Social Dilemma and watch the documentary on Netflix.

See the FAQs about the film.

Interview With Filmmaker of The Social Dilemma

The Vanity Fair article This Documentary Will Make You Deactivate Your Social Media says:The Social Dilemma may finally convince you that we’re being watched, manipulated, and misled by unscrupulous platforms and attention-harvesting algorithms.”

It points out:

If you’re reading this article, chances are you found it through social media. And that means the platform that used it to get your attention knows you’re here. While you’re reading these words, Facebook, Twitter, or Google are likely reading you. That’s the premise of the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma from filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, which features repentant Silicon Valley figures sounding the alarm that big tech companies are doing three very dangerous things: (1) Spying on you. (2) Manipulating your feeds to keep you engaged. (3) Deepening your biases and blind spots by pushing away everything else.

The article explains the purpose of the data mining:

The amount of information that is being collected is a gold rush for data to build more and more accurate profiles around us. And in many ways, whoever builds the most accurate profile, whoever can predict us better, those are the companies that are going to win out. It is really individualized, personalized data accumulation to build a more and more accurate model that is currently being used to manipulate us.
The interviewer points out:

Even if I want to leave Twitter, I feel like I can’t because it’s the town square, right? It’s the area where people gather. It’s where news circulates, even if I have a problem with those trending topics. My feeling after watching your film is I want to delete everything, but the competing feeling is that I don’t want to miss out on things. I want to see what my friends are doing. I want to hear about their birthdays. I want to see pictures of them on their vacations and celebrating the holidays. This is how I stay connected.

Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski acknowledges some of the benefits of social media and says that’s why he refers to it as a “dilemma” in the film, but concludes: “We need the public to change their mindset. We need the technologists to literally change the code, we need policy to shift to potentially change or even outlaw these business models.”

Social Media: Unplug and Run!

The New York Times article ‘The Social Dilemma’ Review: Unplug and Run says:

This documentary from Jeff Orlowski explores how addiction and privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms. That social media can be addictive and creepy isn’t a revelation to anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. But in Jeff Orlowski’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” conscientious defectors from these companies explain that the perniciousness of social networking platforms is a feature, not a bug.

They claim that the manipulation of human behavior for profit is coded into these companies with Machiavellian precision: Infinite scrolling and push notifications keep users constantly engaged; personalized recommendations use data not just to predict but also to influence our actions, turning users into easy prey for advertisers and propagandists….

In briskly edited interviews, Orlowski speaks with men and (a few) women who helped build social media and now fear the effects of their creations on users’ mental health and the foundations of democracy.…“Never before in history have 50 designers made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people,” says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. Anna Lembke, an addiction expert at Stanford University, explains that these companies exploit the brain’s evolutionary need for interpersonal connection.

The article concludes:

Despite their vehement criticisms, the interviewees in “The Social Dilemma” are not all doomsayers; many suggest that with the right changes, we can salvage the good of social media without the bad. But the grab bag of personal and political solutions they present in the film confuses two distinct targets of critique: the technology that causes destructive behaviors and the culture of unchecked capitalism that produces it. Nevertheless, “The Social Dilemma” is remarkably effective in sounding the alarm about the incursion of data mining and manipulative technology into our social lives and beyond.

Hate Social Media?

Hate Social Media? You’ll Love This Documentary is a Wired article that says: “The Social Dilemma argues that humanity’s greatest existential threat is not climate change, but Facebook.” It points out:

The Social Dilemma suggests, more than once, that social media represents “humanity’s greatest existential threat.” I first heard that phrase last April, at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco, where the technologist Tristan Harris unveiled a “new agenda for tech.” Harris, a former Googler, had spun his ethical concerns about social media and screen time into a new nonprofit, the Center for Humane Technology, which he formally introduced that day onstage.

Many of us were sympathetic to the cause, calling to mind the devils we knew: misinformation, manipulation, virality, addiction, filter bubbling, FOMO. But Harris was here to crank up the concern. We were being controlled, like voodoo dolls in the palms of Big Tech. We were being chopped up and sold, like factory farmed meat. This wasn’t just a battle for our attention, Harris said. If we didn’t do something now, it would be the end of humanity as we knew it.

The documentary takes aim at the humanity-crushing effects of social media, with footage of Harris’ presentation at the SFJazz Center woven throughout. …It prosecutes its case like a trial lawyer, calling one witness after another up to the stand. They include many of the great architects of social media as we know it today—people like Tim Kendall, Facebook’s former director of monetization; Justin Rosenstein, who invented the Like button; and Guillaume Chaslot, who created the recommended-video infrastructure for YouTube—all of whom denounce their former work…..

We are not the user, we are the product…. Mark Zuckerberg and Susan Wojcicki are billionaires; meanwhile, everyone else has given up happiness, knowledge, intimacy, spontaneity, time with our families, free will. We are pawns in a horrible scheme. We are living in 2.7 billion individual Truman Shows. We are living in the Matrix!

The article points out:

Watching The Social Dilemma during the coronavirus pandemic adds a dash of irony. The film arrives at a time when many American schools have pivoted to online learning, record numbers of Americans are working from home, and reliable internet is more precious than ever. Even social media has new value, as a way to connect with the friends and family we cannot see in person. These platforms are enmeshed in our lives. Those who don’t have access to phones, computers, or stable WiFi may find, in 2020, that they have not achieved some kind of Zenlike nirvana, but are instead left out of work, school, and the rest of society.

It concludes:

Unfortunately, neither Harris nor the documentary offer much practical advice to those who are already awake. Anyone who spends more than a few minutes on social media knows that it’s a mess. What are we supposed to do about it? Responsibly, the producers ask that very question towards the end of the documentary. The technologists throw out a few ideas: Tweak the design. Change the business model. Make new regulations. Shut down the companies altogether. Mostly, though, they answer with blank stares.

The Toxicity of Social Media

Plugged In: The True Toxicity of Social Media Revealed warns:

No phenomenon in recent history has fundamentally changed us to a greater degree than social media. What might seem like an innocuous means of passing time and staying in touch with old friends is actually destroying us. So say many of the mental health professionals featured in Plugged In: The True Toxicity of Social Media Revealed.

“People need a hard break from some of these tools,” says one of the film’s interview subjects. It’s a question of survival. Evidence suggests that the frequent use of social media platforms alienates us from physical social interactions, heightens our feelings of insecurity, and has had a profound impact on the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide around the world, especially among adolescents.

The executives and designers behind these platforms are not oblivious to the ill effects that result from overuse of their product. They’re the unfortunate byproduct of their business model. Social media algorithms are crafted to inspire a short-term infusion of dopamine, and can quickly condition the user’s brain and central nervous system. It’s an engine where narcissism thrives. It generates a strong sense of envy in many users that can quickly evolve into deep depression. Cyber bullies feel empowered to lash out under the cloak of anonymity.

The diagnosis is grim. With the help of author and behavioral researcher Sam Vaknin, the film attempts to piece together a possible cure. Additional interviews with social media users shine a spotlight on the power of these platforms to prey upon the vulnerabilities in human nature, and how simple behavior modifications can help to curb the perils of instant gratification.

The film insists that the mere existence of the internet and its social media possibilities are not inherently evil. But our exposure to them must be moderated and used responsibly just like any potentially addictive activity. It’s an addiction that afflicts many millions of users across the globe. Most of them are likely unaware of their dependency or the risks it poses to their psyche. Plugged In: The True Toxicity of Social Media Revealed offers a valuable deep dive into the psychological impacts of the medium.

Like: The Movie About Finding Balance in Our Digital World

Like: The Movie About Finding Balance in Our Digital World is another film about the dangers of social media and asks “Are you using technology or is it using you?”

The site says: “LIKE is an IndieFlix Original documentary that explores the impact of social media on our lives and the effects of technology on the brain. The goal of the film is to inspire us to self-regulate. Social media is a tool and social platforms are a place to connect, share, and care … but is that what’s really happening?”

See the trailer:

It points out that 2 billion people have cell phones now and each check them about 150 times a day.

You can host an online screening at: Host a Screening — The LIKE Movie

The site says:

We believe film is the most powerful medium on the planet. By sharing stories we connect and can have a lasting positive impact. LIKE explores the reality of the challenges we face navigating today’s world basically addicted to our devices. How do we stop? Where do we start? What’s really going on?

Spread the word. Believe change is possible. These screenings bring kids, parents, and educators together to talk about this universal issue, share personal stories, and provide resources and tools. There is power in solidarity. The more you share, the more we connect. Share this film in your community because watching it alone on your couch does not create the same effect as watching it with others. Together we can learn more about ourselves.

Cell Phones Could Cause Spike in Childhood Cancer

Experts Warn Again Cell Phones Could Cause Spike in Childhood Cancer — 400,000+ Diagnosed Annually says:

For many years American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical experts have warned that children are more vulnerable to cell phone radiation and other sources of wireless exposure (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi ).  They have advised limiting their exposure.  Increased cancer risk is one reason why (see 1, 2, 3, 4).

It adds:

Every year more than 400,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with a form of cancer, and studies are suggesting that spending an excessive amount of time and proximity to electrical devices, particularly smartphones, may play a big part in that statistic…. The electromagnetic waves created by cellphones are listed as “possible carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer….As they will be exposed to these electromagnetic waves more than today’s adults, Turkish doctors advise children and adolescents to limit their cellphone use.

The article links to four videos.

Helpful Books

Deviced!: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World

Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance

The Digital Diet: The 4-step plan to break your tech addiction and regain balance in your life

Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider.

Also Read:

The Big Tech Exodus Has Begun — Join Us! (Updated)

Blockchain Social Networks: Alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Medium

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