Striking A Balance To The Social Dilemma

Striking A Balance To The Social Dilemma
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In this guest post, M&C Saatchi Australia’s social strategy director Emma Parsons (pictured below), argues that despite the doomsayers, social media’s done far more good than harm…

If you’ve seen Netflix’s latest sensation The Social Dilemma, you’ll know there’s no resolute solution to the alarming issues and valid concerns surrounding the use of social media it raises.

Will social media lead to civil war? Is it the catalyst for the breakdown of democracy in the modern world? For some, these scary, hypothetical denouements have been enough to throw phones in the bin, pronto; at the least it’s left in its wake many with more questions than answers.

For me, whilst it’s clear we’re dealing with a broken information ecosystem, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hypocrisy as I listened to this one-sided view of social media focused on the dangers of algorithms that only serve… one side.

Social media has also done a world of good, as they fleetingly acknowledge in the film; lives have been enriched thanks to communities that previously didn’t exist and the normalisation of formerly taboo topics. Connections have been found, forged or kept over long distances and years. Pets finally receive the accolations they deserve.

This dilemma can’t be reduced to storytelling tropes of good vs. evil, because it is, in a way, a very human challenge comprising varying shades of grey. We can’t solve it by asking everyone to just opt out because the “problem” is also in of itself, the solution.

Admit it – whilst the thought of a platform knowing and predicting your behaviour might be unnerving, doesn’t it provide a better user experience than ever before? Relevant content and ads can be entertaining, useful, thought provoking, even mind-expanding. Aren’t you (somewhat) grateful an algorithm knows you so well it’s saving you time or vanquishing that growing sense of ennui (or is that just me)?

On the flip side, removing all social media could result in the return to traditional power structures, engineered by those who have a vested interest in keeping everyone else muted; before social’s democratisation of commentary, the media giants, governments and celebrities of the world were the only ones with access to the microphone, so to speak. Contemplating life without social platforms delivers us a Sophie’s choice between which rich and powerful men we find less terrifying.

If you’re not ready to delete everything just yet because you’re benefiting from social media in some way, but also, you know, have a conscience and don’t want to be programmed by persuasive technology, here are five things you can do right now to keep your online behaviours in check:

  1. Track and limit screen time and app use (and as the film says, turn off notifications!)
  2. Keep confirmation bias in check and prioritise your relationships and humanity – this could look like staying friends with and/or following people that have opposing opinions
  3. Block/unfollow those who bring anxiety, comparison, depression or self-consciousness and limit your use of filters to avoid social media dysmorphia
  4. Regularly and consciously acknowledge the wide-spread use of photoshop and filters, and the fact that often what you’re seeing is people’s “highlight reel” not their real life
  5. And as the film suggests, start a conversation…

For more solutions, their website is a great resource – www.thesocialdilemma.com. We may not solve the social dilemma, but we can aim to strike the balance in order to mitigate the impact.

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Emma Parsons M&C Saatchi

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