September 30th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 39
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Simply Selles by David Selles
 
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
The positives and negatives of it lead to an eye-opening dilemma.

That dilemma has recently pulled tech insiders into creating a documentary on how damaging social media really is.

That documentary is The Social Dilemma.

In it, the multiple tech insiders, who have worked at Google, Twitter and media powerhouses Facebook and Instagram, try and explain just how much social media controls our lives.

I remember on my 13th birthday, one of the first things I did was create a Facebook account.

Looking back on my posts at that age I cringe.

There was no reason for me to have one at that age because I didn’t even know what I was doing at that point when it came to social media.
I’ve fallen into the trap and I’m finding it harder and harder to get out of.
One tech insider in the documentary mentions social medias main goal and it’s quite scary if you think about it.

“How much time can we get you to spend? How much of your life can we get you to give to us?”

That thought process is what drives all these major social media giants.
But there’s more danger involved with social media.

“Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. Exactly what image you stop and look at and for how long you look at it.”
That’s right.

Everything you do is being monitored.
continued below ...
It’s something we don’t really think about while we are on social media.
All we want to do is see what others are up to.

We aren’t thinking about the consequences of all this time on social media brings.

One tech insider says his reasons for leaving Google in 2017 was because of ethical reasons with not only Google but the entire industry.
When someone says that, it’s a scary thought.

Another insider says when he started out, he always felt like fundamentally it was a force for good.

He says now he doesn’t know if he still feels the same way.

Another quote from the documentary touches on how blind creators are.

“It’s easy today to lose sight of the fact that these tools actually have created some wonderful things in the world. They’ve reunited lost family members; they’ve found organ donors. There were meaningful systemic changes happening around the world because of these platforms that were positive. I think we were naive about the flipside of that coin.”

Here’s another quote.

“When we were making the like button our entire motivation was can we spread positivity and love in the world? The idea that fast forward to today and teens would be getting depressed when they don’t have enough likes or it could be leading into political polarization was nowhere on our radar.”

One of the main tech insiders in the documentary is Tristan Harris, a former Design Ethicist at Google and the Co-Founder of Center for Humane Technology.
continued below ...
He mentions a time while working for Google creating Gmail as one of the first times he really questioned where the tech industry was going.

“When I was at Google, I was on the Gmail team and I just started getting burnt out because we had so many conversations about what the inbox should look like and what colour it should be. I felt personally addicted to email. I found it fascinating there was no one at Gmail working on making it less addictive. I was like is anyone else thinking about this? I haven’t heard anybody talk about this. I was feeling this frustration with the tech industry overall that we kind of like lost our way. I really struggled to try and figure how, from the inside, we could change it.”

Harris goes on to mention just how much control an engine like Google has.

“Two billion people will have thoughts that they didn’t intend to have because a designer at Google said that this is how notifications work on that screen you wake up to in the morning. We have a moral responsibility as Google for solving this problem.”

Harris mentions that of course there are positive sides to social media as well.

“It’s simultaneous utopia and dystopia. I can hit a button on my phone and a car shows up in 30 seconds and I can go exactly where I need to go. That is magic. That’s amazing.”
continued below ...
Harris says it’s important to find a way for social media companies to continue in a humane way.

“We can demand that these products be designed humanely. We can demand to not be treated as an extractable resource. The intention could be how do we make the world better.”

After watching the documentary, I went on my Facebook account and deleted over 200 of my friends.

I now have just 31 Facebook friends that consist of my immediate family and my very close friends.

My Instagram account went down from over 300 people I followed to 105.

My Twitter is down from over 400 to 145.

These changes for me are a step in the right direction for limiting the stranglehold social media has on me.

Limiting my followers will help limit my time on these different platforms.

I’m also setting three reminders in my phone each day that go off at 9am, 3pm, and 9pm.

Those three times will be when I’m checking social media.

I’m hoping that over time it will become easier for me and I could even drop it down to one time per day.

The documentary is an hour and a half long.

To my shock and surprise, it took me over two hours to unfollow and unfriend people that I barely talk to.

It simply shouldn’t have taken me that long.

At the end of the documentary, three rules are mentioned for people to follow in order to help limit their social media use.

The first rule was keeping phones outside of the bedroom at night.

I’ve been doing this one for years. I’ve never wanted the distraction or temptation of staying up all night looking at pointless videos.

The next rule was no social media until high school.

Man oh man do I wish I would’ve followed that one.

The third rule was working out a time budget with your kids.

It was mentioned by an insider that if you ask them how much time they should spend on social media, most times they’d say a reasonable amount.

These are just some of the simple things that can be done to limit the impact social media has on our lives and our society.

I didn’t even touch on some of the other issues presented in the documentary because I want everyone who can to watch it.

It’s on Netflix and I hope that anyone who has an account will take the hour and a half to educate themselves and learn more about the stranglehold these companies have on us.
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September 30th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 39
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