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  • Astrid Kitchen

The Good, the Bad & the Social

Dear world,

Another documentary has dropped on Netflix about the fate of humankind, which is doomed if we keep up our tech and social media dependencies… The Social Dilemma – who’s seen it?

Talk of the new Netflix program cropped up in our Monday Inspiration meeting, with two OMTMers discussing their favourite insights. Doug shared the startling realisation, that if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product. Shems was struck by the evil genius behind pointless notifications which are used merely to catch your attention and reel you back into an app. Based (ironically) on my social media feeds and WhatsApp groups, it feels like everyone is watching The Social Dilemma all the time. I have not yet followed suit, but will really prioritise seeing it this weekend if I want to have anything to talk to my friends about next week.

Less recently, but also this year, there was the rolling out of the Instagram initiative of hiding likes on pictures for portions of the population, starting in Canada before it was introduced in the UK and the US (amongst other countries). The button was birthed 10 years ago when Justin Rosenstein pulled an all-nighter to launch Facebook’s ‘like’ functionality, with the hopes of spreading goodwill and affirmation… He now endeavours to live a largely ‘offline’ life. He has blocked himself from Reddit and Snapchat, deleted Facebook and has restraints on his phone to limit his ‘online’ social screen time. Even Facebook and Instagram have said if they could re-wind time they would not have created the ‘like’.

Where does this leave us? Paul likes to talk about the false dichotomy between digital and non-digital life; is there conceivably no divide and are we entirely digitalised beings now? Or, at the very least, are we all to varying degrees addicted to social media?

My flat-mate has a subscription to ‘The Week’ and they have a section on page 4 where it says ‘It wasn’t all bad’. In that same spirit – I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the good that can come from app innovation. Shems’ contribution to our Inspiration meeting was an app called Robogee. It was built as an educational device to teach children about refugees, in a way which is accessible and engenders understanding, rather than fear or hate (like so many media depictions). This is a refreshing example of when social media can be used for good.

However, there is something else interesting here, in that this app chose to use a robot to depict a human, to enhance the understanding of its young learners. Similarly, a recent o2 ad employs comparable symbolism, in a blue robot which follows its network users about their daily lives. The ad claims to attempt to build a more emotional connection with audiences. Are we so used to social media, technology and robots even, that it is a language which can be employed to enhance human understanding now?

Programs like ‘The Social Dilemma’ are important to stop us from becoming complacent to the rapid pace at which our lives change. They make us re-consider taken-for-granted behaviours and how they might impact on our wellbeing. And yet, documentaries also have the tendency to catastrophise and polarise. To understand the whole picture, it is useful to pay attention to nuance and to remind ourselves that we are active agents who have a say in how our lives pan out.

Speak soon,

Astrid - Research Assistant at One Minute To Midnight

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