social dilemma
Image: 7Shifts via Unsplash

This Is How AI Is Hacking Our Own Psychology, And Not For Good Reasons

The Netflix show "The Social Dilemma" has shown us the hidden dangers of our social media use.

We’ve all had an inner feeling that social media may not be on our side, 24/7. At first, it was the constant display of a perfect world, one that many sought to deem as not accurate. We only display our best moments online, and this is super misleading to those who imagine their favorite influencer‘s lives to be perfect 24/7. Then it was something else. Suddenly, a simple Google search for a hairdryer was now in your Instagram ads, on YouTube, and maybe popping up on your Facebook that evening. This is not new information, but the experts from tech giants like Instagram and Facebook have come forth and warned us of impending doom ala Netflix’s newest docu-series, The Social Dilemma.

social dilemma
Image: Szabo Viktor via Unsplash

What is “The Social Dilemma”?

According to the New York Times, this film is a mixture of short interviews and a sort of visual medley of what social media usage can lead to, in storytelling form. The director of the film “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. They deliver their cautionary testimonies with the force of a start-up pitch, employing crisp aphorisms and pithy analogies.” The Social Dilemma describes how social media giants are using our addiction to technology to reward our behavior. The endless hours we spend scrolling are rewarded with likes, comments, and follows. Because of this, these companies know what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. They then use this to showcase our wishlists to us online.

social dilemma
Image: Eaters Collective via Unsplash

How Much Of This Is True?

Regarding our addiction to social media, it might not all be so true. It might be completely true. This is a newer technology, so much is still unknown about it. According to Vogue, it’s probably both. “Mental illness rates in high-income countries are on the rise, and this is correlative with increased social-media use—but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The correlation between social media and mental health seems to be about the same as the correlation between eating potatoes and mental health: small and weak,” says Paul Marsden, a psychologist from the British Psychological Society.

The combination of many mental health and social media studies are all different. This suggests that social media can contribute to poor mental health, but it can also make people feel less lonely. It can also showcase the community at large, which can change their self-esteem for the better. During this pandemic, for example, social media and the digital world have been our escape from a coronavirus-filled world.

The end result is also mirrored in the film itself. We can mend and fix the issues that social media causes, like i.e. data tracking and mining, that is good. Social media can display inviting and real content. It can ban hateful commentary and imagery. We can use social media as the tool it was designed for and not the other way around. Decide for yourself and watch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix here.

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