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Vichakshana Abeyrathna - 26 Feb 2024

Does Scrolling Lead to Sinking? - Part II

Have you ever thought of this?


Let's commence this article by posing a few random questions.


Have you ever thought about recording a vlog of your daily routine? From where did you get the idea? 

Did that idea make you happy? 

Did you try to do so?


Well, some of us can say yes, while others can say no. Henceforth, these questions lead me to ask you another...


Have you ever felt that you are being influenced by social media in your day-to-day actions, reactions, or decisions?


We have seen both local and global examples where people create movements through social media. Can you remember a few of them? 

#BlackLivesMatter

#MeToo

#StopKillingUs

#YesAllWomen


These movements positively changed the world, spreading awareness, empathy, and peace. On the other hand, social media could inspire violence, and hatred, promote terrorists, spread fake information, etc., which may cause inappropriate situations. The world continuously discusses these positive and negative effects of social media, but under the topic we are discussing, I found some interesting facts. So,


Have you watched "The Social Dilemma (2020)"? 


"The Social Dilemma" is a thought-provoking documentary that seeks to explore the pervasive influence of social media platforms on society. The documentary runs through several insightful interviews with tech industry insiders, psychologists, and ethicists to explore how social media algorithms manipulate human behaviour, influence elections, and contribute to societal polarisation. Through polarisation. narratives and expert analysis, the professional discussion sheds light on the unintended consequences of our increasing reliance on social media, sparking critical conversations about the impact of technology on our lives and the urgent need for ethical regulation and responsible usage. The significance of this documentary is that those discussions are wrapped around a few quotes which will leave a blank space in your thought process to reflect. 

  

1. "If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product."

2. "There are only two industries that call their customers 'users': illegal drugs and software." - Edward Tufte 

3. “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.”

4. “We are all lab rats; we’re just zombies, and they want us to look at more ads so that they can make more money.”


All of these direct us to a single question: 

How does social media manipulate you? To be addicted to them, to be inspired by them, or to make social media a part of our daily lifestyle.


Simply put, social media is designed as a platform to connect people, make them interact with each other, and keep them entertained. But have you wondered why you are seeing more and more content that relates to your mood? That's because, deep down, the developers of those platforms are focusing on the psychology of people to keep scrolling and watching, and they are taking care not to put their devices away.  


It isn't evident to you until you see all those commercials that they will make a significant amount of money. That’s what drives production firms to pay for them. In truth, the user is the product of social media, and they sell their product to any firm that will pay them. And the interesting thing is, even if you are aware of this fact, you’ll wait until the skip button just because you think there’s no harm to yourself. So that, I suppose this statement makes sense to you now.  “If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.” 


To be true, ads are the most important element that a social media company runs on. These companies depend on the number of sponsorships that they are getting; hence, they are working on manipulating the user to see more ads through their platforms. So that they could convince the companies that their users see ads. They conduct studies aimed at exploiting human psychology to enhance user addiction to their platform, thereby amplifying the volume of advertisements they receive. 


It's the small, almost unnoticed changes in how you act and see things that they're selling. A millisecond of wait in observing a photograph, a like, or a reaction, A video that you passed over initially but chose to revisit and view again. Which will convey to you the statement,  It's the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behaviour and perception that is the product. works on.


Sometimes, even the creators or designers aren't aware of the negative impacts of new features until they're adopted by society. Yet, these features can still affect people's mental health. Research suggests that the negative effects generated by social media have led to increased feelings of loneliness and higher rates of suicide or self-harm. That can simply explain how you feel about a negative comment on your photo, a dislike for your video, a pointless humiliation through a meme, or a disagreement about your opinion. It's your own perception that affects your actions. Yet even if it's negative or positive, you are forced to face such scenarios.  "We are all lab rats; we're just zombies, and they want us to look at more ads so that they can make more money."


Even if you think these are extreme statements, you may see the specialists in the documentary describe how they modified their social media platforms using the data from your experiences. 


Ultimately, despite the positive effects of social media, such as connecting society and spreading positivity, as well as providing psychological benefits, it still carries the negative impacts discussed earlier. We may not be able to eliminate these negative effects, but being aware of them and understanding how they operate can help us better control their influence on us. 


I would like to invite you to go through the documentary to get your point of view and not be afraid of the facts they discuss.

author
Vichakshana Abeyrathna

A bewildered soul, interested in reading and writing chaotic poetry.