The Social Dilemma

In the end of my last post I discussed how the themes of technology within the film ‘India in a Day’ made me realise that while technology can empower individuals, it is a powerful tool that can also become addictive and damaging. 

In his Social Transactions chapter, Athique explains that page views, click trails, followers, recommendations and likes have all emerged as effective currencies of social capital in the digital domain. This is very much the norm today and an idea that we are all very familiar with as technology users – but does it come at a cost?

Research proves that social media can damage your mental health through rewiring your brain with instant gratification. When you start getting social media notifications, your brain provides you with a hit of dopamine (a chemical in your brain that’s associated with pleasure and reward systems) and makes you feel good. When social media notifications keep coming in at a fast pace, your brain gets trained to expect instant gratification. It then becomes easy to get stuck in a cycle of chasing more highs and constantly refreshing your feed. 

The millennial generation definitely feel this pull of instant gratification intensely. We are slowly becoming conditioned to have less and less patience and chase short term highs. I have scarily noticed this pull at times. Recently, I had a lot of uni work to do and kept getting distracted by my phone so I turned it off and put it in another room. As I was working, I noticed my hand impulsively reaching to my side to pick up my phone that wasn’t even there, when I hadn’t even had a conscious thought or need to grab it. I was horrified, it was almost like muscle memory was kicking in. ‘What power does this bloody device hold over me?’ I thought. 

The documentary The Social Dilemma (2020) focuses on the dangerous impact of social networking, which Big Tech use to manipulate and influence. In the film, employees who created certain social media tools even admit they did

A harrowing quote that stood out to me was from Jaron Lainer who is a computer scientist and virtual reality pioneer. He said “We’ve created a world in which online connection has become primary. Especially for younger generations. And yet, in that world, anytime two people connect, the only way it’s financed is through a sneaky third person who’s paying to manipulate those two people. So we’ve created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context with the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture, is manipulation.”

What have I learnt? Consume with caution. 

References:

Athique, Adrian (2019). Digital Transactions in Asia. Digital Transactions in Asia: Social, Economic and Informational Processes. (pp. 1-22) edited by Adrian Athique and Emma Baulch. New York, NY United States: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780429425110-1 

Brain Forest Centres 2018, Social Media and Mental Health, Brain Enhancement and Training, available at: <https://www.brainforestcenters.com/news/social-media-and-mental-health#:~:text=Instant%20Gratification&text=When%20you%20first%20start%20getting,expect%20instant%20gratification%20from%20notifications>. 
The Social Dilemma 2020, Available at: <https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/>.

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