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What I learned from watching The Social Dilemma

Image Credit: The Social Dilemma, Sundance

Molly Fairclough, 7th Nov 2020
Tags: Life Review Documentary Drama

Despite not being a horror movie, ‘The Social Dilemma’ is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time.

If you’re like me, you will probably go into watching this movie thinking that you know what it is going to say: that social media is bad, that it is hindering actual social interactions, and is affecting our mental health. However, it goes much deeper than this.

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As a society, we know that social media is bad. So why are we still using it?

The movie showed two answers to this question:

1. We don’t think it will happen to us

For some reason, no matter how many times we hear about the negative effects of social media and see the statistics about the declining mental health of people who use it, we still don’t think it will happen to us. Like anyone trying to resist change, we conveniently disconnect ourselves from the problem, thinking that we are exempt from these negative side effects. We do this because it allows us to carry on using social media without guilt or fear.

Most of us are addicted to social media.

2. We are addicted

No one wants to admit that they are addicted to something. It means admitting a lack of control over your own actions and that’s scary. But, whether we want to own up to it or not, most of us are addicted to social media.

Sure, you are physically capable of putting your phone down, but that dopamine rush you get when you open up Instagram or Facebook is what keeps you coming back for more.

You may be thinking, “So what? Fine, I’m addicted to my phone, but it’s harmless, right?”

The short answer is, no. Anything that is subconsciously manipulating your behaviour and thought patterns all for the goal of profiting off your attention is dangerous.

Take Instagram, for example, the emergence of filters and photo editing has created a whole new beauty standard that people are constantly striving towards. The problem is that this new standard of beauty isn’t real. We are striving to look like something that has been created by a machine, thus making it completely unattainable.

We are exposed to the opinions of millions of people.

What’s more, as human beings, we are designed to care about people’s opinion of us. However, social media, takes this to the extreme, where we are exposed to the opinions of millions of people; all of whom are having their say in what we do, how we look and who we are.

The fact of the matter is, we are not designed to be able to cope with this.

So, we know that it’s a problem, but how do we fix it?

Everyone, no matter how old or how qualified you are, can implicate change on a personal level. The biggest way of doing this is deleting social media entirely. This may seem extreme but it’s really not that crazy a thought.

It is proven to make us feel isolated.

Social media is pretty much guaranteed to negatively impact our mental health. It is proven to make us feel isolated, depressed, and worthless. So what is our reason for keeping it? Surely the bad outweighs the good?

If this still seems like too much, turning off your notifications can be a great place to start. This allows you to exercise a little more control over when you use your phone.

Like any addict, social media will probably still be on your mind. But at least, with your notifications off, your phone can’t actively demand your attention when you are doing other things. 

Be mindful of how you spend your time.

Every change, no matter how small, makes a difference. So, start today. Turn off notifications, deleted your apps, educate yourself, and be mindful of how you spend your time.

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