The documentary The Social Dilemma examines the effects of social media on our contemporary society. The film shows us several former employees at Google, Youtube, Facebook, and other sites. These men and few women are alerting viewers to the growing dangers of social media use. However, as I watched the film I couldn’t help but think that this could have been avoided. The effects of magazine ads and commercial ads were known to affect young children and increase suicide rates. The data from researchers were available and well known among our society, however, app creators, such as the ones in the film, were focused on bringing in money rather than the effect these apps would have on our society.
In the film it speaks about the increased suicide and non-fatal self-harm among young girls. The documentary claims that young girls are at risk because of this aggressive marketing model. Data in the film shows the increase in non-fatal self-harm and suicides among young girls from 2009 until now. In young girls ages 10-14, they are 189% more likely to commit self-harm than young girls ages 15-19. The rate of non-fatal self-harm has tripled since 2009 according to the data collected by this film.
A task force was created in 2004 to find out how marketing affected young children and adolescents. This task force reported on how children’s eating habits were affected, their cognition skills, and their self image. This data provided by this team of professionals is available to all through a simple google search. However, it was disregarded by those small few in Silicon Valley for a quick buck.
The tech giants in the film admit that the apps were created to gain income. For instance Tim Kendall, former employer at Facebook, admits that he was in charge of the monetization at Facebook. He claims that the elegant business model at Google encouraged him to use it to make money over at Facebook. The intent could have been positive but the data shows us that this desire for monetization held negative effects. These tech giants in Silicon Valley had a desire to earn fame and fortune rather than consider how future generations would be affected.
Shoshana Zuboff, a professor at Harvard law, alerts us to the rise of surveillance capitalism. Surveillance capitalism is the selling of our human experience that translates into behavioral data. Meaning the things we like, the things we are interested in are sold to advertisers to determine what we will do now or in the near future. Although this term is a new one we can see that this idea has been around for years. Several researchers have found that marketing to children has been effective because they can determine how these children will be consumers in the future. They can determine the behaviors of children. This is similar to the apps today except their hand has a much wider stretch. They are taking the behaviors of children and adults and selling it to the highest bidder.
While we were becoming depressed social media addicts these tech giants were lining their pockets.
Their carelessness has put our society on the fast track to becoming a dystopia. A dystopia is a society that is undesirable or frightening. It would seem today that along with the recurring racial turmoil, the increased deaths from Covid and the isolation that we are subjected to would lead us to this dystopia sooner. However, these apps are right at the center and will cause more issues considering this growing isolation and increase in racial injustice.
If these companies want to make a change they should hire psychologists so that they could provide insight on how these apps damage the minds of our society before they reach the market.