Against the Tide // The Social DilemmaWed 16 Sep 2020
The Social Dilemma: Resist the occupation of the human mind
Does Social Media do more harm than good? Has the technology started to hurt more than it helps? These are the most important and raging debates of our times.
A plain fact of life today is that there is no running away from technology. You cannot wish social media away. Even the most purists of the people who would otherwise rue the social media abuse and its increasingly corrupting influence on humans are on social media and almost addicted to it.
Most of us reach out to our phones first thing after putting off that alarm. People carry phones to the loo, to their jog,, checking updates while in transit, on dinner tables, in elevators, practically everywhere. It’s a trap, which has been sold as liberation.
“The Social Dilemma” on Netflix hits you like a blizzard. It’s a desperate call to break out of the trap. To free humans and societies from the tyranny of the codes. To be humans again, who use technology for good things, but also know when it starts to rule them.
As I said, this is not a rant against technology. Getting a cab at your doorstep at just a click or a tap is great. A hotel booking made on the go is helpful. How can you not love tech when strangers show up to donate blood to your loved ones after just one social media post. There are numerous goods that come our way solely because of the rapid tech advancements that we have seen in the last decade or so.
But what started as a tool to connect, has along the way become the agent of discord. The irony is almost lyrical. Social media world over has now turned this uncontrollable genie out of the bottle. The genie has taken over the master’s mind and being, turning the master into its slave.
The docudrama explores and exposes the havoc that the new, big tech is playing on young minds. It is selling fantastic and unrealistic notions about beauty, about being popular and successful to teens and young adults. An entire generation is growing up looking itself through the Instagram filters, followers and Facebook likes.
The Social Dilemma comes at the right time when we see tech giants interfering with elections, amplifying societal discords, fuelling polarization and playing at the hands of autocratic forces in subverting democracies and rights of people. It’s a rude warning. And we can ignore it at our own peril.
It lays out how tech companies and social media platforms manipulate human minds, control access to information, become willing tools of disseminating misinformation, control people’s thought processes, pushing people into the silos and cocoons of their biases and prejudices. All in the garb of the noble purpose of connecting people.
Social media is insulating people from the “other” view. The ‘personalised’ news and content feeds are creating rabbit holes. Users just hear and see what the machine has decided that want to see. It’s creating bubbles. Every person gets the content that amplifies his/her biases and notions. Every individual can have their version of truth, constantly being validated by the like-minded people, whose minds are in turn also being controlled by the machines. When everyone owns their own version of truth, there cannot be a common truth of a society, a community built of shared and common interest.
What social media feeds people as news is just the sum total of an individual’s prejudices, biases churned out day in and day out by the algorithms based on the search history and a lot of other things.
So, to make a group of people hate another set of people is as easy as a click or a tap. And politicians across the world are using these tools to further their political, divisive and ideological pursuits. People are being polarized, radicalized, dehumanized and vilified on social media.
Some of the best constructs of the human intelligence are now tools of the destruction and occupation of the human brain. People can be wired to think in a particular direction just by juggling some codes.
People take what they see on Twitter or Facebook as gospel if it gels with their worldview. There is no scope for any conversation, no space for the other view in a wired mind. Fake news spreads like wildfire and sells like hotcakes.
A senior from college recently narrated a conversation he had with a journalism student. This student listed Twitter as his main news source to the horror of my friend. Now reconcile this with the MIT study that found that fake news travelled six times faster on Twitter that the actual news.
Be very alert when you hear terms and phrases such as “personalized news”, “recommended for you”, “clickbait”, and “suggested friends”. These are all traps. Apply human intelligence a bit more otherwise unbridled artificial intelligence will eventually turn humans into zombies.
Human mind is a beautiful thing. Don’t let big corporations with their big tech plunder it like a data mine.
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