Wednesday, September 16, 2020

To be or not to be on Social Media. Is that still a question?

It is the best thing I watched this week. Or, that's what I think.

'The Social Dilemma' on Netflix.

It is a powerful documentary that shakes us up, and wakes us up, to the shocking reality of Social Media, and how the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can unfavourably affect us.

If it has not already affected us, that is.

It is a strange irony that I am sharing this 'anti-Facebook and anti-social media' post on a social media networking site. But therein also lies the answer. At least, partly.

The problem is not ‘technology’. But how it is being designed and manipulated so that the advertisers get their due; and so that the investors get what they want - from these giant tech companies they funded.

But, are we even trying to understand, at what cost to human psychology?

And at what cost to the democratic societies, which are becoming more and more divisive, thanks to the often-dubious posts that get shared and re-shared online? Sometimes a million times in a few minutes.

With fake news, rumours, and misinformation, spreading "six times faster than facts", with AI "getting better and better at predicting what keeps us on the screen", at an individual level, "we'll probably destroy our civilization with willful ignorance". Unless we change the way, it is run.

But "how do you wake up from the matrix, when you do not know that you are in the matrix"?

"Is it some kind of simultaneous utopia and dystopia"?

Can we really put "the genie back in the bottle"?

"Maybe a data-tax would prevent companies from acquiring and storing every piece of data on their customers' or users' online behaviour".

These sentences and phrases above, within quotation marks, are just a few of the many thoughts I had heard various people say, in the documentary.

And who are these people?

Most of them are former engineers and executives of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest….

… who now realize that tech design should become 'more humane'.

I liked the way the docudrama (I think it is a better word for the show, than documentary) was able to follow a small family, with its key characters struggling to come to terms with their addictions to mobile phones and social media.

I felt however that the climax of this somewhat subliminal story could have been written better.

The best thing, however, is the way – despite the number of individuals giving opinions - how the opinions were all crisply edited to keep us engaged and excited. Awed and Amazed. Perhaps, more appropriately, shocked and stunned.

Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom. It is not like some strange end-time prophecy. But it hovers somewhere close to that description.

There were some answers to the problem facing us.

But I wished there were more.

It is a must-watch. If you really want to learn about the edge of the precipice, towards which these 'social media networks' are leading us all.

I am giving it four stars, out of five.


Trailer Below.


I had written some stuff, on these issues, in my weekly column 'Wide Angle', in Bahrain’s 'The Daily Tribune' earlier.

And I am sharing a couple of links below to the blog where I have them.

Are filter bubbles isolating us intellectually?

What's the New Weapon of Mass Misinformation?