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I Finally Deleted My Facebook Account After Watching Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’: Mums Review TV Documentary

The Social Dilemma
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The Social Dilemma, the latest TV documentary by Jeff Orlowski explores how privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms. Mums at Sassy Mama discuss our thoughts on social media after watching the show

New documentary-drama hybrid The Social Dilemma has us mums discussing social media in varying states of alarm. Ironically these discussions often take place on the very social media sites that the show focuses on. Our team at Sassy Mama is made up of mums from around the world with kids of varying ages. We all watched The Social Dilemma and had different reactions. It was the final straw for one of the team to delete her Facebook account, while another shared how she’s banning Instagram and Facebook until her kids are 16 years old…

      Read more: Parent Resources: Guide to Kids Internet Safety, Social Media & Screen Time

Mums at Sassy Mama discuss Netflix’s The Social Dilemma

After Watching The Social Dilemma: I took notes on how to take back control

pole dancing“The Social Dilemma warns about the dangers of social media. What is especially harrowing is the intention behind these social media sites where the business model is designed to mine and manipulate customers. The social media sites are watching our online behaviour (likes, dislikes, searches, purchases) to produce data that can be used for commercial purposes. The scary thing is how effective AI has become for this type of surveillance capitalism, and scarier, is how uninformed we are when we go online ourselves or let our kids loose on it. Scarier even still is how cleverly addictive these sites are. The Social Dilemma goes into detail about the psychological harm of relying on social media for positive reinforcement and discusses an increase in teen self-harming, teen suicide and depression. If your child has been nagging you for a phone to go online with, or if they spend a lot of time on social media sites – I’d recommend watching this show (with your kids if they are older as the documentary has a PG-13 rating). Right as the credits roll as you are hyperventilating into your paper bag and wondering what to do, the insider expert execs (many of whom don’t actually let their own children anywhere near social media) give practical tips on how to you can take back some control.” – Beate

After watching The Social Dilemma: no social media for my kids till they’re 16

“The Social Dilemma felt like another wake up call on how manipulative and dangerous social media companies are. One quote from the movie really resonated with me: “If you’re not buying the product then YOU are the product”. Being a mum to a soon to be 11-year-old I am particularly sensitive to the impact social media has on young people. They are not equipped to deal with the pressures of social media, be it from friends or from the AI behind it whose only goal is to keep them longer on those platforms. My husband and I decided after watching the documentary to have an open conversation with our daughter about her usage of those apps (she only uses Whatsapp at the moment). We turned off her notifications, reminded her that she should use the app meaningfully and we don’t plan to give her access to Instagram or Facebook until she is 16!” – Emilie

The other side of The Social Dilemma: this is what we’ve missed

“No more Youtube and Facebook!” I’ve heard many saying after watching this traumatizing Netflix show. Is this hype overblown? The documentary has revealed one side of the problem and has created a panic spread. The show has pointed out the apparent downsides of social media (incubating misinformation, radicalization, manipulation, etc.), which is impacting real life. But they are not the only outlet to blame. We’re interacting with (and affected by) a dozen different channels daily, from mainstream media, news, to even educational outlets. Many of them are knowingly or unknowingly, products with an economic or political agenda behind them. Without an effective code of conduct, any channel can be exploited by the hidden agenda, instead of driven by the initial mission and purpose. Algorithms and AI are created with the purpose of improving our lives. From a macro perspective, when problems occur, we should focus on rectifying and finetuning the development, for example, a more comprehensive regulating system and education in ethical awareness, instead of simply abandoning it. As a user and a parent, I will be more cautious about using social media and digital devices, but it’s important to make sure our children are not growing up inside a bubble. As an older millennial myself, I am lucky to have grown up in an environment where we naturally understand that it is normal to have different voices and opinions. We understood that a functional society is not only about having your voice heard, but to respect and accept other voices – and that’s the value I’d like our children to grow up with too.” – Michell

After watching The Social Dilemma: I finally deleted my Facebook account

“I noticed recently that I was seeing less and less genuine content on Facebook from people I knew, and more ‘funny animal’ and cooking videos. I would find myself mindlessly scrolling in search of something meaningful, and was losing more time than I’d care to acknowledge. The Social Dilemma highlights how the algorithms behind these not so innocuous interfaces work, to draw us in, to keep our attention, and funnel us down prescribed pathways. It’s alarming (or alarmist, depending on your view!) to have it explained by those who are most certainly in the know – most of those who are interviewed actually built the products they are now warning us about – and genuinely scary to hear their predictions about how badly the next 20 years could unfold if things don’t change. Thankfully during the credits, the experts share their call to action, and the steps they are personally taking. The relatively simple ones I’m taking on board are:
– Delete unnecessary apps so your data can’t be collected
– Turn off all notifications that aren’t timely (so WhatsApp and iMessage are turned on, but IG, shopping, and travel apps have notifications turned off).
I also deleted my Facebook account after watching this (The Social Dilemma was the tipping point rather than the reason for this). It’s a small stand, but I hope it helps to make space in my own life. There are so many things I wish I had more time for, but mindlessly consuming content that’s been picked on my behalf isn’t one of them.” – Jessica

After watching The Social Dilemma: I am worried about how social media will further evolve

“The Social Dilemma really opens up the ugly truth about social media. When the show pointed out how easy it is to get distracted and sink into social media by feeding ads tailored to our interest as we mindlessly scroll through our feed, that resonated with me. I have to admit it has happened to me when just a 5-minute check became an extensive 20 minutes of scrolling. We know it’s not all bad because we get information and fast services via social media too, but it is equally essential to know what is taken from us when a ‘free’ sign up isn’t actually free when you submit your information for an account. It’s worrying to think what this would evolve into in years to come for my daughter (now 15 months old).” – Atikah

After Watching The Social Dilemma: I’m discussing media literacy with my kids

“The Social Dilemma paints a very bleak picture of our media landscape. The former tech execs being interviewed did not offer many solutions other than abstaining from social media and removing notifications from our phones. I’m definitely disturbed by the evil forces at play, but as a lover of the internet, social media, and popular culture, I’m not ready to give it all up and I have a slightly less pessimistic outlook. The film reinforced to me that media literacy might be the most important 21st century skill for our kids to learn. Thinking critically about media messages all around us and understanding and questioning ‘who is paying for this ad/article/video/game and why?’ can be an empowering lesson. Our kids should understand that their attention is valuable and they can “pay it” with intention. We all need to understand this! Balancing our screen time with real world activities and connection, viewing all media with a critical eye, being informed consumers and citizens, protecting our personal information – these are fundamental life skills. I definitely recommend parents watch this movie and stay hyper-vigilant. We should be speaking to our kids about digital citizenship and media literacy every chance we get!” – Marisa

After watching The Social Dilemma: it’s easier to visualise how wrong things can go

“I was first introduced to social media in my teens (circa 2009), and it was before it became a world that was reliant on likes and social approval through the internet. That said, I definitely went through a phase of low self-esteem due to social media and often asked myself, “Why does that girl have so many followers? How does she look so perfect all the time? How can I get that many likes?” but over time I grew out of it and realised the importance of real world connections (I’m still guilty of scrolling Instagram endlessly in the late hours though!). However, I can’t say the same for this new generation of children who grow up with technology and social media from birth, and The Social Dilemma helps us visualise exactly how wrong things can go when social media is used for the wrong purpose. We can’t deny the fact that social media helps us stay in touch with far away family members and gives a platform to show the creativity of people from all around the world, but in this new age it’s more important than ever to teach children about mindful internet usage, how to distinguish between truth and opinions, and prioritise real world connections over internet acquaintances. My daughter may only be a year old, but my husband and I are always discussing how we’ll broach the subject of social media and internet usage when she gets older. We’ve heard that local schools are starting to take social media seriously and weave media literacy into civic and moral lessons, so this sounds like a step in the right direction.” – Syazana

After watching The Social Dilemma: I am putting screentime limits on myself

“My takeaway from the The Social Dilemma is that instead of only placing time limits (I use Apple’s Screentime) for certain apps on my kids’ devices to control their access to Roblox, Minecraft and Youtube for Kids, I am thinking about possibly installing similar time limits on my own social media apps! IG and Whatsapp are my two vices and as IG especially is developed to keep you scrolling, perhaps I could use a reminder about how much time I spend on there!” – Carlijn 

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Image courtesy of Netflix

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