‘The Social Dilemma’ – A Documentary on Social Media Use and How it Affects Us

Written by Kayla Lammers (Features Writer)

With the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma growing in popularity, there are many disputes about social media and the problems we face. The big claim of this documentary is the brainwashing and control social media platforms have over us. The Social Dilemma shows a boy being controlled by real people through his phone, using a visual they put in our mind to get their point across. How is that for manipulative? Our social media sites filter information based on what we have shown interest in, sure, and the information is all there, but there are some very blunt claims, and it’s overdramatized. 

The documentary is formatted to appeal and persuade its audience. The scene with the family not being able to eat dinner together because they were torn apart by their addiction to their ringing phones? Not totally realistic. That makes parents start sitting their children down talking about the documentary and the hard facts, explaining that they watch everything you do, so then they delete Facebook and have their kids get rid of Snapchat. They are convinced, manipulated into thinking, that we have no control over ourselves, which makes the audience feel helpless or powerless, and tells them with certainty that they are addicted. That, in turn, makes them want to delete their social media accounts, and tell their friends, and force their children to do the same.

Teenagers spend about seven hours on average on their phones. Based on a survey I conducted, I can conclude that each person is different. Not every teenager sits on their phone all day. Cell phones are tools, and we communicate and entertain ourselves with them. With the shelter in place order and not being able to see or talk with friends, it makes sense that nowadays teenagers are on their phones more. Our only source of human interaction is with our household family and everyone else through our screens. After being stuck in a house with siblings for seven months now, it should be accepted that we want to have contact with our people as much as we can. 

Seeing other people post how much fun they are having or how great they are doing on social media can really bring some people down. There is a correlation, not a causation, with social media use and depression in teenagers. It is the same thing as having self esteem issues in general, but the problem has gone up with the use of social media. It’s a spiral that tightens and tightens until you can’t take it anymore. It is awful, and not that uncommon. According to a Mental Health article by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, 3.4% of the population has depression, 3.8% of the population has an anxiety disorder, and 0.2% of the population has an eating disorder. The rate of individuals reporting symptoms consistent with major depression in the last twelve months increased 52 percent in adolescents from 2005 to 2017 (from 8.7 percent to 13.2 percent). Compared to earlier generations, we are exposed to devices showing people in real time a lot sooner. On average, a child gets their first phone at age 10. Again, cell phones are tools used to communicate. How many teenagers text or call their friends and family everyday? It wouldn’t be practical to take away that source of communication.

Everything should be taken in moderation. Drinking not enough water, eating too much sugar, or having too much exposure to negativity. Too much of anything is never good – “It’s not a problem unless you have a problem with it” 

Screen Time isn’t the reason for mental health disorders, but it very well could be negatively impacting your subconscious. Try spending less time on devices, at least for a little while. A cleanse, if you will. If you feel better or happier, maybe that’s what was weighing you down.

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