“The Social Dilemma” and healthier social networking

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” and as they describe it:

This documentary-drama hybrid explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

There’s a basic story about a family struggling with phone addiction, but the meat of this for me is the tech experts describing what they have built at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc and how it’s all working against us, addicting us to further their profits. I deleted my personal FB account after the Cambridge Analytica scandal as it was utter cancer then, and it’s even worse since the recent redesign.

The film takes a long time to get to the actual point, which is that as shareholder driven companies, these tech giants have to increase profits for their shareholders. This means constant growth, which is gained by addicting us to the services so we can be sold more ads.

Ex-Googler Tristan Harris and founder of The Center for Humane Technology puts his points across well and their website has some excellent tips of how to escape social media addiction. A quick summary of their “Take Control” page:

  • Turn Off Notifications – Those things can probably wait
  • Remove Toxic Apps – Facebook/Instagram/TikTok/Snapchat
  • Download Helpful Tools – Relax, track screen time
  • Eliminate Outrage from Your Diet – Huge!
  • Follow Voices You Disagree With
  • Be Compassionate
  • Set Boundaries
  • Fully Disconnect 1 Day Per Week
  • Remember the Positive – The world is not the internet
  • Support Local Journalism (Not sure about this, my local paper is part of a corporate clickbait network)

If you’re spending hours a day scrolling curated highlight reels on Insta and it’s making you feel shit, getting barraged with nonsense from family members on FB or getting anxious about the vocal woke left and ‘cancel culture’ on Twitter, now’s the time to limit social media usage. “Doomscrolling” is on the rise this year with the pandemic and assorted other disasters and the political circus in the US. With that all being so far out of our control, we are better off just not allowing too much input from divisive political sources and biased news media.

Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder, CEO Social Capital and former facebook exec, warned about the unintended consequences of social media at Stanford Graduate School of Business: “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. You are being programmed”


I used to think Reddit was somehow different to FB/Twitter/Insta, but there is growing awareness that it’s being used to ‘astroturf’ for political ends, and for subtle advertising through bot networks and paid accounts. It’s just as bad in many ways.

While I don’t miss FB and Insta, I do miss sharing what I’m up to with my actual friends instead of chasing likes. I’d love to use an ethical social network to keep up with friends especially as we’re still social distancing here in the UK and it’s moving into Winter, so meeting up with people will be riskier and less likely for me. Minds looked promising but I don’t know anyone who uses it, and it’s full of right wingers and conspiracy nuts that have been banned from other networks.

So in summary, “The Social Dilemma” is slow at points, but well worth a watch to see how we are being manipulated to increase tech giants’ profits. The Centre for Humane Technology have some great ideas on how to reduce this influence.