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The Social Dilemma

By Gicelle Quitangon

The Netflix Original Film, “The Social Dilemma,” changed the way I interact with digital culture.

I’ve always had a hot and cold relationship with social media. Some days I’m all about it making sure my feed looked top tier for the imaginary prospective followers in my head, but other days I’d feel the urge to delete everything and fall off of the face of the Earth.

Until I watched the documentary, I could never put my finger on what it was about social media that caused so much internal conflict in me. I’m going to share what stood out in the film for me, and maybe you’ll reevaluate your relationship with social media.

Takeaways from the film if you are too busy to sit down and watch:

  1. If something is free, you are the product.

If this sent shivers down your spine, good because it’s creepy AF. The business model of social media is designed in such a way that our attention and behaviors are being sold to advertisers. Every time you scroll past an ad, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever platform you use, is getting paid by advertisers for your impression. You pay for social media with your time and attention.

  1. Social media is designed to keep you disengaged from the real world.

Think of it this way: the more ads you see, the more money they get. Social media companies create self-learning algorithms that build a digital version of you to predict what content will keep you plugged in for longer. It knows when you like to scroll, how long you look at posts, who you like, who you don’t like, etc. The more you engage, the better it gets at predicting your behaviors and ultimately influencing your behaviors.

  1. Social media is killing our ability to cope and communicate.

Not to sound like a boomer, but Generation Z has no idea how to talk to each other, and that is mainly due to social media. Whenever we’re bored, uncomfortable, sad, lonely, anxious, or even just sitting on the toilet, we turn to social media. It’s become our digital pacifier.

As a generation, we are reliant on technology to soothe our discomfort, and now the majority of us don’t know how to really confront our emotions. We let social media smother what we feel instead of actually feeling it, leaving us empty. Literally, the opposite message of every coming of age story ever. 

Immediately after watching the film, I deleted all of my social media with the exception of Instagram because that’s how I share my photography and get clients. I deleted them with the intention of ridding myself of social media completely but now, a week later I’ve reached a different conclusion.

As much as I would love to just opt out of social media, I realized I can’t. I use Snapchat to connect with my classmates about assignments so I had to reinstall it. I use Pinterest to select color palettes and garner inspiration for my shoots and I use Twitter to get a feel for different perspectives on major political events.

As much as I hate to admit it, social media is so deeply rooted in our society and the way we function that at least for Generation Z, it seems nearly impossible to get rid of it completely, especially as a creative. 

So what do we do?

We stay self-aware and educated. I learned a lot about what I get out of social media and what it gets out of me. When we are conscious of the way things affect us, we have control over what boundaries we set for our relationships. 

I don’t scroll through Instagram anymore because I set the boundary that I will only use it for the purpose of driving my photography forward. I don’t spend hours on Pinterest anymore because I set a boundary that I’ll set aside an hour or two each week to update my boards.

Another boundary I set is when I catch myself reaching for my phone when I’m bored or sad or just idle, I stop and really think about what I’m doing. Those were just my boundaries though; get to know your relationship with social media and set boundaries that work for you

If you want to watch the documentary (which you totally should) it’s available on Netflix. 


Where do you stand on the social dilemma we face? Let us know on Instagram and Twitter or leave a comment!

Reach the writer on  Instagram 

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