Our 5 Biggest Takeaways from Netflix's The Social Dilemma

Understandably, we're all on our phones more than ever in 2020.

We're desperately trying to stay connected to our friends and the outside world while we're locked down. Social media can be great because it makes us feel less isolated. It's also a great entertainment source when we can no longer do our favorite outdoor activities. However, just like everything in life, too much of anything can be dangerous. The problem with social media is when we lose balance and depend on it too much, which is happening to many people during this pandemic.

The Social Dilemma is a Netflix docudrama that examines our relationship with social media and how it affects our everyday lives. It exposes how much information we unwillingly put out and how companies use it for marketing targeted products. It includes incredibly eye-opening interviews with influential people from the tech world, including former presidents, directors and executives from Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Apple, Uber, Google and Facebook. While we recommend everyone watch it, we understand it's a busy time and not everyone wants to sit through a 94-minute-long documentary. Don't worry. We did the work for you! Here are our five main takeaways from the movie.

Netflix: Social Dilemma title image

(via Netflix)

Look Out for Fake News

The Social Dilemma warns of the dangers that come from fake news. A study by MIT researchers found that fake news spreads faster than the truth. The researchers discovered that false claims were 70% more likely to be shared on Twitter than true stories. There is a lot of misinformation online and it's hard to tell which information is accurate or not. Still, we can take steps to make sure we read and share the right information, like always fact-checking with other news sources or using Fact Check. You should also stay away from and report social media accounts that use hate speech, derogatory and inflammatory language.

Netflix: Social Dilemma two guys on their phones

(The Social Dilemma via Netflix)


Your Attention Is the Product

Justin Rosenstein, a former engineer at Facebook and Google, said, "We're the product. Our attention is the product being sold to advertisers." Nothing is free, even if the social media platform is free. Social media connects us with our friends and family, but it is also a way for corporations to show ads. The Social Dilemma highlights that everything we do is tracked and monitored. Artificial Intelligence (AI) knows your preferences and tracks every ad you see. This is why we see ads and trends that always seem so relevant to us.

Netflix: Social Dilemma interview with tech expert

(The Social Dilemma via Netflix)


Find Balance With Your Screen Time

Even before the pandemic hit, we were on our phones a lot. Experts in The Social Dilemma explain that social media and smartphones are programmed to be addictive. "We've moved away from a tools-based technology environment, to an addiction and manipulation used technology environment," said Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre of Humane Technologies. "Social media isn't a tool waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you."

So how do you find balance? You can schedule screentime limits on your phone, turn off your phone an hour before you go to sleep, have "phone-free" nights with your family or pick-up hobbies that don't include your phone. Social media isn't bad, but if you feel anxious when you're not on your phone and need it for entertainment, it may be time to set some limits on your screen time.

Netflix: Social Dilemma actress on phone

(The Social Dilemma via Netflix)


Don't Find Validation Online

When someone likes a tweet, comments on a picture, follows us or shares our post, we feel a tiny burst of joy from dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that rewards good behavior and motivates us to repeat it, which is an important learning method according to Harvard's research.

Unfortunately, social media takes advantage of it. We habitually check our phones, even if we don't receive a notification, because we want that positive reinforcement from people's validation and social interaction. The Social Dilemma also points out that our sense of beauty has become warped due to filters and FaceTune. It's easy to be jealous of people on social media because their pictures, and lives, are edited to look perfect. If you're continually feeling down because social media make it feel like you're not good enough, it's time to reevaluate how much time you're spending on the app.

Netflix: Social Dilemma guy on phone

(The Social Dilemma via Netflix)


Social Media Can Be Very Bad or Very Good—It's All Up to You

Only you can decide how you use social media. You choose whether it improves or impairs your life. Take the time to evaluate your relationship with social media and honestly assess how it affects your mental health. It's okay to cut yourself some slack and acknowledge that we're all going to be racking up screentime during the pandemic. You just need to fact check information, be aware of targeted ads, find self-esteem and happiness outside of your phone, and regularly check in with yourself.

Netflix: Social Dilemma actress taking selfie

(The Social Dilemma via Netflix)


Even stars struggle with finding a balance with social media! Check out THIS interview with Sabrina Haskett and Zach Tinker from Happy Hazel, where they talk about social media balance, mental health and the key to real happiness.