Netflix's The Social Dilemma has officially convinced us that we're living in the Matrix—okay, not really, but it has seriously got us thinking.
In the new documentary, a group of tech experts come together to discuss surveillance capitalism, the science behind technology addiction and the harmful effects of social media (especially among children). Essentially, per the film, what started as a harmless way to stay connected with friends has turned into a dangerous tool of manipulation, and most users aren't even aware of it.
Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, explains, "Social media isn't a tool that's just waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them." Whoa.
1. It clearly breaks down how the Internet can harm children's mental health
You might want to think twice before you let your kids bring their phones to the dinner table. According to the documentary, because of social media, self-harming has trippled and suicide rates have risen by 150 percent among children.
Harris said, "These technology products were not designed by child psychologists who are trying to protect and nurture children. They were just designed to make these algorithms that were really good at recommending the next video to you or really good at getting you to take a photo with a filter on it."
He continues, "It's not just that it's controlling where they spend their attention. Social media starts to dig deeper and deeper down into the brain stem and take over kids' sense of self-worth and identity."
2. It explains why your kids' online activity is never private
If there's one thing you'll learn from the experts in this film, it's that data privacy doesn't exist for anyone. Google searches, social media interactions and even scrolling patterns are tracked and used to manipulate consumers.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former VP of growth at Facebook, says in the doc, "Companies like Facebook and Google would roll out lots of little, tiny experiments that they were constantly doing on users. And over time, by running these constant experiments, you develop the most optimal way to get users to do what you want them to do. It’s manipulation." Talk about disturbing.
3. It reveals how these social platforms were built to keep kids addicted
It legit sounds like a Black Mirror plot, but experts in the film reveal that these social platforms not only try to keep more people engaged, but also, they try to get users to share more personal information online—and that's definitely not ideal if you want to protect your child's privacy.
Harris says, "They're competing for your attention. So, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, companies like this, their business model is to keep people engaged on the screen."
Tim Kendall, former president of Pinterest, adds, "Let's figure out how to get as much of this person's attention as we possibly can. How much time can we get you to spend? How much of your life can we get you to give to us?" It's certainly a lot to think about.
To stream the entire documentary, you can view it exclusively on Netflix.