Do you ever wonder why people don’t see the same thing happening in the world today that you do? Do you ever wonder why your friends, work colleagues or family members can have can have such polarising ideas on topical issues?

Did you know that depending on where you live in the world, what you have previously searched, what pages you follow depends on what answer google will throw out to you when you use their search engine?

Do you sometimes wonder how Facebook shows you an advertisement on something you haven’t searched before, but may have been thinking about?

I briefly talked about the Social Dilemma a Documentary on Netflix on my Instagram story the other day. It’s one of those documentaries that leaves thinking about it for days, so I watched it again. It is such a poignant documentary at a time where much of the world is in chaos from Covid 19. I watched it on the back of reading an incredible book about a women who infiltrates extremist groups, the book talked about the use of social media and how to influence mainstream society into radical thinking, it goes hand in hand with the Social Dilemma and what is happening with society. This documentary is definitely worth a second or even a third viewing because we pick up so much more when you have had time to process it. I was more conscious of my social media usage and two recent local issues in New Zealand around the spread of Fake News and also the tightening of how Social Media influencers advertise goods and services gave me loads to reflect on.

The Social Dilemma introduces us to the creators of our major social media platforms, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. We are then get quickly introduced to the business models for these platforms. The business model is based on us, the user, being the product and three things to keep the user hooked.

  • Engagement – Make us keep scrolling
  • Growth – Bring more people to the site
  • Advertising – Share advertising to make money

You may not realise but every time you pick up your phone, use social media you are being tracked, ( I know that sounds like a conspiracy theory) but the platforms use algorithms that track how we use social media, they know how long you have stopped to look at a photo, they know if you stalk your neighbours Facebook pages, they track every like, click, page you follow. All this data that is collected is then built into a model, these models are coded to predict what you are going to do next. So slowly over time they manipulate where your attention will go, by placing advertising, recommend sites, videos and pages for you. This may not seem like a big thing, but slowly over time it works on our deep subconscious so we don’t notice it but they can literally change how you think.

Going back to my first question. Do you ever wonder why people don’t see the same thing happening in the world today that you do, even though we have access to so much information?

In the past we all got our information from the same place, such as the newspaper, or old school TV News where all the information was the same. However, now with social media and algorithms we get a customised version of information to suit us. So each person has their own set of facts that is given to them, this is really apparent in election years when opposing ideas and thoughts are out in the open.

But what happens though when we have a personalised versions of data? It gives us a false sense that everyone around us agrees, and when you are in that state it is very easy to be manipulated, and we have seen that recently with the conspiracy theories around Covid-19. When we are manipulated we also tend to not be objective, we can’t or don’t want to see the other side of argument and you only need to look through the comments section of social media posts to see where people will just revert to name calling instead of opening their eyes and mind to the other side of the coin.

With all this information running through my head, I wonder how I am manipulated? I wonder how my perception of the world has changed over time? I definitely am aware of how my perception of the world has changed over the past six months, with Covid 19, and seeing the behaviour and reaction of others in a time when we can’t control all the things going on in the world. I ask myself what impact I make on social media and society by what I share and then ultimately consume afterwards?

Is becoming more aware the first step for change?

But then how do I change how I use social media and the internet so that I am not using it through addiction but using it purposefully and with intent?

My thoughts wander back to when I started writing blogs and I really enjoyed sharing something that hopefully inspired others. And it made me think yes, this is when I was enjoying sharing and consuming social media with purpose and intent. I was not particularly worried about who read my blog, I just wrote things because I enjoyed it.

For me I compare reading a blog on a webpage like WordPress where you actually have to click out of Instagram or Facebook and use data to read it, like making time to sit and read a book on the couch by a warm fire; compared to tapping a social media update which is more like flicking through a magazine while you are waiting for an appointment. It’s like eating fast food on the run compared to sitting down to a nice meal, and I think society is well and truly showing the effects of having a bad diet.

I understand that giving up social media is not going to happen over night, even my own consumption is not going to rapidly change overnight, but for me personally I want to change how I use the internet, using ethical platforms, using it as a tool where I can be in control to some regard instead of me being being the product and denying that I am addicted to it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on The Social Dilemma. Do you think it will change your social media habbits?

If you want to know more about The Social Dilemma click here.

Rebeckah

Posted by:From Beneath the Kowhai Tree

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