If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma (and The Great Hack), I strongly encourage you to do so. Personally, I think they should be required watching and part of the school curriculum. As a social media manager I feel it’s especially important for me to talk about the issues with social media and the way it’s used because I believe it can be a force for good and I want to live in a world where that is its only use.
There’s not much I can really add to the documentary but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the issues we’re facing and how we can attempt to tip the scales away from dystopia.
We can, and should, complain about the issues with the tech industry. We can, and should, demand governments regulate these companies. We can, and should, call for developers and social media executives to stop prioritising profits above human lives but we also have to accept that we have a responsibility as individuals too.
As was mentioned in the documentary, the attention economy is real. Every time you choose to click on a click-bait article you tell businesses to create more click-bait articles. Every time you share ‘fake news,’ whether you know it’s fake or not, you request more of that from media outlets.
Lies and fake news more interesting than truth, we must share the truth anyway. We must share it more.
Surrendering our own power because we don’t want to shoulder that responsibility, we don’t want to take the time to fact-check articles or take a breath before sharing rage-bait posts, by saying it has to be tech companies that change only allows the situation we have to continue. Our part may be comparatively small but we still have the power to create change.
One big reason that the change, in my opinion, has to start with us is that companies and governments have no financial incentive to change things at the top.
While advertisers, including governments, benefit from the data provided by social networks, and social networks make more and more money from that, it falls on us, the user, to push for change.
I would love to live in a world where humans, the planet and ethics are more important than profits, that’s why I am working to build an anti-capitalist business myself. But right now we do not live in that world and the biggest businesses, like those in Silicon Valley, are the least likely to want to change that.
Imagine what the world would look like if social media execs cared more about people than money.#TheSocialDilemma— Alexis Bushnell (she/her) (@Bushnell_CS) September 19, 2020
As users, we create the financial incentives; if we stop clicking on rage-bait, it’s no longer financially viable for it to be created. What we choose to consume, like and share matters.
Expecting the people profiting the most to put forward plans for real change seems unrealistic to me. We must take control of our own actions on social media and use them to change where money is being sent.
Zuckerberg and co aren’t innocent victims.
I don’t believe tech executives are evil but I also don’t believe they’re victims with no choice but to keep going down this road.
In the documentary it was mentioned that the people running the businesses aren’t at fault, that the business model (or Capitalism) is the issue. Execs are beholden to boards and investors wanting them to make more money no matter what but every one of them, and every board member and investor, is a person who is making a decision every single day to put profit above people.
Going against the grain is difficult, it always is, but everyone high up in tech companies right now who isn’t taking a stand is, in my opinion, choosing another billion dollars over the well being of individuals and entire societies. That is not OK.
We can change things.
I genuinely believe that we can change things simply by being more aware of how we use social media ourselves, what we share and what we click on.
We can choose to scroll past the memes about Remembrance Poppies not being sold and instead share the truth direct from the Royal British Legion. We can choose to report, rather than comment on, misinformation about mask usage and COVID in general. We can choose to either fact-check an article before we share it or not share it at all. It’s exhausting (I work in social media, believe me, I know!) but that is how we start to turn the tide.
As businesses we can choose to not use click bait or unethical tactics in our posts or ads on social media. We can opt for purely organic social media rather than paid ads. We can collaborate with other businesses and share other businesses who are choosing to use social media ethically. We can choose to support our followers and communities with our content.
If you, like me, want to change things, we have to say “it’s pants that the people at the top made this mess but I’m going to pick up a mop and clean up my little patch of floor.”
The tech industry has a moral responsibility to change things and we as individuals have a personal responsibility to push for it.