Viking Saga

Social Media: What is Really Happening While you Scroll

‘The Social Dilemma’ Netflix documentary gives disturbing insight into what goes on behind your screen

Kennedy Holsapple

Social media: two words that fill a daily average of seven hours for teens, according to CNN. Everyone has different approaches: “I’m not allowed social media,” “I’m TikTok famous,” or somewhere in between, but there are dangers these companies hide from users. It’s time for the truth.
“The Social Dilemma” documentary is told by social media creators. They explain problems
they’ve created, how they’ve responded to these difficulties, and what the user should know. It’s
more than liking pictures; it’s psychological manipulation, and it’s changing the way every user is living their lives. “If you’re having a conversation with somebody, most of the time their phone is in their hand,” said senior Madison Sjostrom. Platforms created notifications to addict users. Upon hearing the ping, many people subconsciously grab their phone, wondering, “What did I get?” Feeds are based on information
algorithms gathered about the user: each like, share, and click. They determine what the user wants to see. This includes advertisements as well. “We’ve figured out ways to create algorithms that tap into our human desires… and they’ve made a business out of it,” said history teacher Matthew LaConti. Social media platforms collect multitudes of data on every user: what triggers strong reactions, how long they look at
certain posts, and more. The user’s attention is the product being sold to advertisers.
“America is built on this sense of every single individual. Every single move they make is meant to make money for someone. It’s something we all should know is happening,” said junior Jillian Sylvester. Is the purpose of social media just to make money for billionaires, and doing whatever it
takes to do so? “People post ‘don’t vote for this person because they did this,’ but a lot of people’s factual basis are articles they find online. If those are false, those could change [elections],” said Sjostrom.
Platforms show the user ideas they agree with or will react to. However, these algorithms do
not know the difference between true or false. “I would like to see the government take roles in regulating what’s out there and would like them to create some standards,” said Mr. LaConti. Fake news spreads six times faster than true news, according to the Netflix documentary. If society can’t decide on what is fact and
what is not, social media can become a threat to democracy.
In addition to playing a big part in the present, social media is impacting the future
in other ways too. “It’s very challenging in any generation to grow up and go through those years… To find out that these [struggles] are becoming multiplied by technology is very difficult,” said Mr. LaConti.
Generation Z is the first generation to have social media as adolescents, and they are faced with problems other previous generations didn’t have.
“[Social media] created new ways to make yourself sad,” said Sjostrom. According to the documentary, the number of girls aged 15-19 that went to the hospital because of self-harm increased by 62 percent, and 189 percent for preteen girls since 2009. Is it a coincidence that Instagram was first released in October of 2010? Teens sometimes compare themselves to the perfection their peers post and don’t always take into account that no one’s lives are perfect. With all of that being said, using social media responsibly can end up being a really positive force as well.
“[Social media] gives teens a new outlet to entertain themselves… They can communicate with their friends and learn more about their lives,” said Sjostrom.

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