The Social Dilemma

On September 9, Netflix aired a documentary-drama that provides insight into the impact social media has had and continues to have on society.  “The Social Dilemma,” directed by Jeff Orlowski, is designed to provoke thoughts, questions – and hopefully actions – that every member of society should be pausing to consider when they use social media. The film explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

At Winston, we believe – and Winston was founded on the principle – that “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.” That reality is brought to life in this dramatic film that includes interviews with some of the very masterminds who designed the networks and platforms that nearly every one of us uses every single day.  These tech wizards from Silicon Valley are effectively shaping the way we think, act, and live with manipulative algorithms and addictive features woven into the fabric of Facebook and other social media platforms. Think about it. When you search for something on Google, the results are rendered based on where you live and what Google knows about you.  Do you ever give any thought to how Google knows all about you? It’s not by accident. It’s by design. Everything you do online is being watched and tracked, with every action carefully monitored and recorded.  Facebook and Instagram is much more than just a place you go to see what your family and friends are up to.  Your likes, your emotions, your shares, your clicks are all collected and filtered into Facebook’s algorithms. 

How often have you pledged to spend less time interacting on social media and more time interacting directly with your family and friends? How many times has that resolution failed? That’s no accident. “The Social Dilemma” explores how addiction – and it is an addiction – and privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms.  It also covers such topics as the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation, extreme polarization in politics, surveillance capitalism (the commodification of personal data), and data mining.  The film suggests that with the right changes, we can salvage the good of social media without the bad.

Following are some simple and practical tips from the experts to help loosen the grasp social media giants have on your lives:

#1 Recognize The Problem

The first step to taking back control of your privacy is to recognize that there is a problem.

#2 Create Massive Public Pressure

Generate conversations and put public pressure on the tech companies and governments to take control of the situation. Voice your opinion, even if it’s through the very same technologies that need to take action.

#3 Uninstall Apps and Turn Off Notifications. 

Uninstall needless social media, news, and other apps from your phone, and turn off notifications that prompt you to look at your phone every time it pings or vibrates.

#4 Use Search Engines That Don’t Store Search History

Use search engines such as DuckDuckGo which offers search privacy, browser extensions that help stop tracking, and more. Winston provides browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

#5 Don’t Go For Recommendations, Always Choose

Never go for YouTube or other site recommendations. Instead make your own decision as to what to watch, buy, or what site to visit.

#6 Research it First!

Always fact-check anything before you share it and consider the source it came from.  Search (using Qwant) for legitimate sources, especially if the topic is supposed to push your emotional buttons. If you got it from a social media feed, it probably is.

#7 Avoid Clickbait

Clickbait websites and stories with compelling headlines are designed to provoke your interaction. When you click on clickbait, you’re creating a financial incentive that perpetuates this existing system.

#8 Follow People With Opinions Different From YouAnother way to avoid getting influenced by fake news and your own echo chamber is to follow people on social media who have a different opinion than you.

#9 Keep Kids Away From Social Media

If you want to shield your kids and teenagers from the negative impact of social media, don’t give them access at all. The Social Dilemma highlights the adverse effects that social media can have on kids self-worth. Experts report that kids’ immersion in a virtual world delays their emotional and social development. In the film’s ending credits, it is noted that many tech executives don’t allow their kids to use social media apps.

#10 Get Out of the System!

The most effective way to keep your life away from digital surveillance is to delete all the social media apps and get it out of your system. There is a beautiful world waiting for you outside!

We believe internet companies have fundamentally turned against us, using our personal data to turn us into products, and, now more than ever, it’s critical, that consumers take action to protect themselves from unwanted third-party tracking and advertising.” ~ Rich Stokes, CEO/Founder, Winston Privacy

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