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The Social Dilemma

by Starlight Tucker about a year ago in social media
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A warning going forward

Social media is a festival of sharing. Agreements on controversial subjects are posted to be shared from one person to their followers. The post is then treated like public property for others to oppose, and then the arguing escalates as others become involved. This kind of dynamic occurs in public profiles as well as private accounts.

Information becoming increasingly available with the use of technology has led to the modern society sometimes referred to as The Information Age. However, The Social Dilemma points out the “flip side of that coin” - The Disinformation Age. The Social Dilemma is a docu-drama about what cyber communications have revealed about human interaction, and how everyone is entitled to their own sources of information in the Information Age. Additionally, it comments on technical business models that contributed to social tensions, such as recommendation algorithms that link users to information based on their search history, likes, and comments.

A main idea is that amongst the excessive benefits of social media are the dangers of propaganda that are hidden in plain sight- images of typed thoughts for users to share and thus represent. The interviews are from former Silicon Valley insiders who participated in shaping the online world. They share their concerns in witnessing firsthand the domino effects of polarization in cyber-arguments. Another main idea is that people are not mindless absorbers of information, but there are neural responses that social media activity elicits in the brain, especially in the attention-extraction business model.

Observations are made about online behaviors that contribute to hostile dialogue, such as sharing. The purpose of sharing opinion posts is that they validate arguments with thoughts and feelings. Social media arguments can occur over many different topics- lifestyles, health, relationship dynamics, employment, living situations, and so much more. Even if one of these posts does not elicit responses, people still see them and may or may not be insulted.

A controversial post attracts parallel response threads across different groups of users. I've come up with my own term, mass-insults, which follow the idea of I’m insulting whoever this applies to, unapologetically insulting more than one person. They may have support from one’s inner circle until an inciting comment has the opposing theme: I’m calling you out for sharing this post, and for good reason.

There is an online sense of urgency to conform (let’s see how many people care enough to share this; if you say nothing about this, you are part of the problem) or of permission to participate in a post that would normally be inappropriate to bring up in person (here’s a characteristic or action that disgusts me whenever I see it in others). The first sentence appeals to ethics, and the second to power. There is a trend to clean out the friends list so one associates only with people who share the same set of opinions, or who do not speak out against the posts.

The Social Dilemma is now a campaign to reform the design, regulation, and use of technology. The website has a section to Take Action by exposing the campaign. It requests advocacy with three sections: Share the Dilemma, Reboot Your Use, and Rebuild the System. This entails sharing it on social media, having conversations, realigning one’s relationship with technology, and reading about the proposals to reform the internet. The page has an additional section for More Ways to Take Action, such as submitting ideas to “Reset the Future.” The conversation tools include a discussion guide. Under “Rebuild the System” is a link to Grow the Humane Tech Movement, in which the new era of humane technology aspires to build a shared reality instead of many fragmented ones. The Social Dilemma informs that work is being done to eliminate the attention-extraction business model for a human-centered model. With awareness, people will take personal responsibility to discern what is useful to bring into the online social atmosphere and what is not.

The movement puts more pressure on the system of technology than on its users, but social media conduct should be cautious, having the common interest of savoring relationships and differences instead of absolutism. Although it acknowledges the positive outcomes of the online world, The Social Dilemma focuses on a severe perspective on the dark effects of online communications from public figures, businesses, and individuals. Now that the viewers have contemplated the most negative sides as discussed in the docu-drama, the movement will continue on the ending idea of reforming the business model, and brainstorming on how to repair fractured relationships in the public as well as between friends and family. There is more room to discuss the positives of social media so that people can change their online interests and behaviors.

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About the author

Starlight Tucker

Starlight Tucker creates works of fiction, music, and art. She has a BA in Communications and will graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing in February 2023. Connect with her on social media @StarlightTucker

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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