Words Munira E. // Header Credits Alifiya Z.
When I first saw the trailer for ‘The Social Dilemma,’ I thought to myself, yes! Finally, someone has put what I have been thinking into something tangible.
I knew I had to watch it, both for my ego’s sake and the sake of generic curiosity. I love a good documentary and I knew this was going to be a good one; I mean after all, it was basically what I had been blabbing on about to my friend.
So that’s just what I did, and I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the shock factor that comes with the reality of social media. I’ve always known that social media has been toxic, but this doesn’t mean I’m perfect and haven’t fallen to its midnight calls and slow and torturous whispers. I remember downloading apps like Snapchat and Instagram when they were still very new to the world. They were growing quite quickly, and the speed of that growth crept up on all of us unknowingly and without any comprehension to its magnitude.
I’m a sucker for self-evaluation and self-improvement. Performing constant self-reflection is what always tugged at me every now and then when I spent that little bit longer scrolling through feeds and watching stories of people who had absolutely no relevance to me or my life. Although I never fully understood why all of this was the way it was, I decided quite a while before the documentary existed to detach myself from this mindless attraction to “social media.”
I didn’t know it at the time of course, but what I was detaching myself from was more than just toxicity and time-waste, it was an endless web of deception and clever marketing. Very clever and very scary.
My best friend is also a documentary-holic, so like all movies that call for good company we decided to Netflix Party and watch ‘The Social Dilemma’ together. I just wanted to watch it and say “I told you so,” and yes, for some part I could say that. But the documentary revealed something much scarier than we had both imagined; (without spoilers) the fact that we live in a world that is slowly becoming dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and doesn’t particularly have a way of disappearing. To an extent, I think it’s fair to say, we are living in a dystopia and we’re blinded by our luxury to see that we are.
So, we watched it and we discussed it, we were, well, simply put, quite shook. A part of me was glad that I had taken some of the steps I did when I did so I could get ahead of the game. Another part of me saw that there was no real escape from it all and it was more about being aware and making conscious decisions to stay cybersafe. I noticed the effect of social media all around me and urged all my family members to watch it – though I can’t say I succeeded, they have strong resolve when it comes to their attachment to social media and I feel like shouting, “that’s what they want!!”
Anyway, I did my bit by following the smaller instructions like installing Qwant as my internet browser and I immediately noticed the difference. Sure, it took a while to get used to using anything other than Chrome but the change was tangible. I was no longer bombarded with stalkerish ads and eerily familiar topics and I felt safer from the unseen, yet dangerous, AI. I say I felt “safer” because I didn’t really realise I was unsafe until I watched the documentary and so having that little bit extra knowledge really helped to put things in perspective. It wasn’t just about a millennial feeling out of touch with the fast growing world of media, it was about being aware of the dark side of the web and the incomprehensible way that everyone is in one way or another involved in it.
Then, when you’ve gotten used to not having that torturous whisper in your ear, you’ll also begin to realise that you never really needed any of it in the first place. You’ll have more time for the things that will spark your creativity, you’ll do things for yourself and not to please an audience or show yourself off. There is a certain harmony in finding yourself outside of the social media spectrum that will help you control yourself even when you inevitably decide to return to that place.