Netflix’s hit docudrama The Social Dilemma paints a dystopian picture of social media, arguing that Silicon Valley’s pervasive technology is now an existential threat to humanity. Having spent the This is my santa pug dog lover merry christmas sweatshirt in other words I will buy this past decade fine-tuning their now very smart algorithms, the brains behind Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, among the other dominant platforms, have got us hooked. With the average adult worldwide spending two hours a day on social media and the average American teenager spending up to nine hours a day, research estimates that social-media addiction now affects almost half a million people globally. But just how bad is social media for our mental health?
The film argues that social media is highly addictive and manipulatively designed based on what’s called an attention-extraction model to control our behavior and keep us scrolling and wanting more. In doing so, it exploits our human desire for the This is my santa pug dog lover merry christmas sweatshirt in other words I will buy this connection to and validation of others, giving us a dopamine hit every time we get a like or reply without ever actually fulfilling our deep human needs. This can lead, as the documentary argues, to a whole host of negative emotions, which drive us back to social media for that quick fix.As such, social media becomes a kind of digital pacifier, a maladaptive coping strategy used whenever we feel lonely, uncomfortable, or sad. As argued by the film’s protagonist Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist and founder of the Centre for Humane Technology, this is a huge danger to our mental well-being—and it is only going to increase due to the lack of regulation in place for these companies.