A popular documentary lately is The Social Dilemma. It bashes social media platforms such as Facebook for creating technology addiction and using our data to manipulate us.
Here are my thoughts about it…
Yes, Guide Children Well
The one part of the documentary I agreed with the most is that we do need to be careful about how children use social media… just like we guide them in other activities.
For example, we restrict or moderate how much video games they can play. Or what internet websites they visit. Or how much sugar they eat. Similarly, we need to be vigilant on how they use social media, or whether they use it at all.
It’s similar to how we guide their social life:
- Who are they hanging out with?
- What are they doing together?
- How is it affecting their emotional and mental development?
- Is it taking too much time away from other activities?
Essentially, social media is a global virtual “social life” and there are wonderful elements, as well as darker parts. Like in any school, too.
As adults who care about the kids in our lives, let’s pay attention to how they’re interacting with social media.
Similarly, Guide Ourselves Well
Where I disagree with the documentary is the platforms easily overpower our ability (and our responsibility) to moderate ourselves.
Just like we have the responsibility to restrict our own use of alcohol, drugs, food — or addictive video games — don’t we have that same responsibility with social media?
Of course we do… if we consider ourselves to be responsible adults with free will.
The documentary takes power away from us, making us seem weak-minded and easily manipulated.
Any good thing can be addictive and requires the practice of mindfulness. The more entertaining something is, the more it’s an opportunity to practice self-moderation.
The more we practice that muscle of self-control, the better the rest of our lives become.
There’s even worse technologies coming — what about virtual reality? That stuff is far more immersive and addictive than Facebook. If we constantly give our power away, blaming the technologies rather than practicing moderation within ourselves, then we are hopeless.
Ever since there’s been entertainment in the world, people have complained about how it’s rotting our minds or destroying democracy. The answer is not to blame, but to empower our own mindfulness and self-control.
Use it for Good
The majority of time I spend on Facebook is in my client group, as well as publishing content to educate and inspire my audience.
I rarely use Facebook or any other social media in my personal downtime, because I am mindful of where my time and attention goes.
I sometimes use social media for researching interesting topics for my personal or professional growth. Participating in specific FB groups, or following certain hashtags and thought leaders on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, can be enlightening. It can also be incredibly useful to search for specific videos on Youtube to teach me something.
When social media is used responsibly, and intentionally for our development, it is a miraculous tool for knowledge and relevant connections.
A Blessing to Advertisers like Me (and You?)
Yes, Facebook has something like 1,000 points of data, on average, for each of its users. Through our activity on the platform, the algorithms learn what we react to, what topics we engage with, and what things we buy or sign up for.
But it’s also what allows small businesses like me, to reach people who are exactly like you.
It is now easier and cheaper than ever before for businesses to reach just the right type of person that would be interested in their offerings. This is what social media advertising allows businesses like me (and perhaps, like you.)
Without this kind of advertising platform, it’s much harder to reach the right people for our business.
The aggregate (and anonymized) data that the platforms have collected and sold to the advertisers (like me) allow me to reach you. And I’m very grateful to be able to do so.
Again, it’s aggregate, anonymized data. So I don’t know exactly who you are. I don’t know your name or address (they hide all personal info from us advertisers) but I know that the audience I’m reaching is interested in specific authors or engage with particular topics, and are within a certain age range and location.
Many, many businesses, including mine, would not be viable today if it weren’t for the ability to easily reach the right audiences with social media ads.
Contribute Your Good
If all of us conscientious people were to back out of using social media, the world would be worse off.
Most people are not going to stop using a tool that is incredibly entertaining and convenient.
So everyone else is still going to be scrolling and consuming content… perhaps mostly junk content. Why are we backing out?
Wouldn’t we rather that our audience sees occasional inspiring or educational content from us?
…rather than only the shallow content that they might see on social media?
Whether or not we are there, they still are.
So why not engage and fill the news feed with helpful things? That is our opportunity.
Another example: I love snacks. Yet there’s more junk in the snack food category than healthy stuff. However, some conscientious people have decided to jump into the industry and provide organic, fair trade, sprouted, or other healthier snacks. I’m grateful they don’t back away from an addictive and “harmful” industry.
Why don’t we do the same with social media? Bring your good and contribute helpful things to your audience, rather than leaving them to the wolves.