The Truth About Social Media

Caleigh Russo

Remember when we were kids, and we could simply be entertained by playing tag with our friends on the street? Now, as we are almost sufficient adults, we take a look at the world around us; in awe of how much everything has changed. Especially in the corona age, it seems as though we are living our lives through the display of a screen. Although it is good to be connected, especially in such an isolating time, it is important to recognize the downside of social media. Netflix’s documentary, The Social Dilemma, does a good job of bringing awareness to the harmful side effects of social media.

If you can get past the 30 year old with a receding hairline pretending to be a teenager who is addicted to his phone, then The Social Dilemma is very eye-opening. Former Google, Instagram, and Facebook employees give testimonies which explain that their former social media employers have ulterior motives. Most social media platforms want to do more than connect people. Their goals are to engage their consumers for as long as possible, throwing in profitable ads mixed with engaging content. They keep track of how viewers interact with content; if they like it, comment on it, share it, how long they watch it for. All of this information is stored and put into an algorithm, which calculates exactly which content has the best chance of engagement. To bring all of this to life, or to relate it to the audience, they portray a teenage boy who is addicted to his phone. Beyond the phone screen lurks three middle-aged men, whose sole intent is to keep him on his phone for as long as possible. They put up posts which they think will interest him, followed by ads for a pair of shoes, which they are positive he will buy. Their purpose is to disengage him from the real world and keep him glued to his phone screen, with no regard for his mental health. While social media is incredibly entertaining, The Social Dilemma spreads awareness about false intent and the manipulation of consumers occurring behind the scenes. 

Although a slightly different concept, the film The Circle exposes companies for the extravagant amounts of data they store on consumers. (Spoilers ahead). Based on Google, The Circle tells the story of a girl who gets a job at the highly-coveted technology company, “Circle”. When she first gets a job there, her fellow employees badger her to synchronize her social media platforms with The Circle’s, intertwining her life with their company. The Circle is an invasive platform, which hides behind the idea of “a community”, and takes over her life. Eventually, the girl is forced by her employers to go “fully transparent”, where she live streams her entire day for all of her followers to see. While viewers see the negative effects The Circle has on her life, they also see all of the data which The Circle stores on people. They know everything about her and her family; they even have access to her family’s medical records.

These films are important because they spread awareness to the negative effects of social media. The addictiveness and the oversharing of personal information are definitely factors people should consider before joining social media. Personally, I love scrolling through social media, but sometimes I need a break. Although I love seeing what my friends are up to or humorous memes, sometimes I feel like social media facilitates an environment where people compare themselves to others or judge others based on followers and likes. Because of this, apps like Instagram are not as casual as they once were. Instead of posting pictures that we want, we often feel coerced into posting these perfectly edited photos. As much as I love engaging and posting those pictures, I often feel as though I am looking at the same photo over and over again, except one is in front of an apple tree and the other is at the beach. There is nothing wrong with these photos; I too like posting pictures with my friends. However, this leads me to believe that Instagram should make some changes, so that people feel comfortable to post more casually. By casual I mean, posting photos they actually want to, without the question beckoning in their heads “what if people don’t like this?”. Who cares what others think? Your social media is a reflection of you. It’s entire purpose is to project a version of yourself, which you want the entire world to see. I’m not saying I hate social media, I am merely stating that there should be more individuality. So why are we hiding behind VSCO filters?