Our Social Dilemma

The internet and all the technological advancements it has brought are incredible. But with them has come unforeseen consequences.

Our Social Dilemma

Imagine that in 2005 you were asked to create a technology wish-list for 2020. What would have been on it?

I would've asked to easily listen to any song at any time. Being that I was twelve, I likely would’ve had a video game-related wish. And I probably would've gone bold for at least one of my wishes and asked for teleportation.

Now imagine that your 2005 self could see you interact with all of the best and most profound technological advancements of today.

I can press a button on a phone and minutes later someone is willing to drive me to my destination, wow!

I can watch old sports clips and highlight clips from last night's game, amazing!

I can video chat with people who live across the world, incredible!

The internet and all the technological advancements it has brought are incredible. But with them has come unforeseen consequences.

Imagine your past self watches how you live an entire day. At first they are super impressed by all the technology you have available to you and the ease that it brings to your life. But then they see some odd behaviors, they see some ways in which you don’t seem to be in full control. They see compulsive behaviors that really don't look that fun. They see entrancement in whatever’s coming from our glowing metal boxes.

If your 2005 self was here to see you today, what behavior would they be most perplexed by? Which would they be most embarrassed by or ashamed of?

YouTube is fantastic for quick games recaps, how-to’s, and insightful lectures. Getting lost in auto-play and losing two hours of our life is not fantastic.

Instagram is...well, it's Instagram. It can be great to see fun photos of loved ones and friends we don't live near, but what about when we've checked it for the tenth time in a day?

Email, group messaging, and forums are all powerful communication tools, but what about when they take up too much of our time and mental energy?

It's important to know that we're facing an uphill battle. Investing our time in the way we care to is going to become increasingly difficult. Social media apps have been designed by hundreds of engineers to keep you coming back, and to keep you scrolling through their app. Your happiness or satisfaction with their app is not their goal, you spending your time on their app is. Why? Because your attention means money in their pockets.

We need to have the clear picture on how we're being used for a couple reasons:

  1. To Not Shame Ourselves: Have you ever planned to spend five minutes on your phone or laptop, you blink, and 30 minutes has passed? A lot of the technology we interact with has been designed in a way that encourages this possibility. It's hundreds of brilliant engineers against our millennia-old brain, the odds are stacked against us.
  2. To Slowly Take Back Control: When you learn that every new feature YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok introduce is not for your benefit but rather to grab more of your attention for their profit, you begin to want to take back some ownership. You know, I don't want to give my time and attention to companies that are causing the highest rates of depression and suicide ever seen in middle and high-schoolers and causing the greatest divisiveness in political and social issues most of us have ever seen.

I have a long way to go. I have some poor habits as it relates to technology. I get caught in the vortex. But when I do, I'm aware that it's happening. And sometimes I manage to pull myself out of it. I remind myself why I'm wanting to use these "services" less. I remind myself how I and my 2005 self would really wish I was investing my time and attention to serve others and live a joyful life, not serve the bottom-line of companies who are willing to exploit us at all costs.The Social Dilemma on Netflix inspired this article. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend it. In this obstacle we must all take ownership, this is our social dilemma.