OPINION | Insta-“gone”: If you haven’t watched Netflix doco “The Social Dilemma”, you should. Now

OPINION

Paul Bugeja

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A lot of people are talking about the Netflix doco The Social Dilemma.


And for good reason.

I would rate it a must-watch for anyone who’s either just a little bit addicted to social media or has kids who are (one word: TikTok!)

A few friends had recommended it to me but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. And then the night before I had a dinner planned with a close mate, he texted me asking if I’d watched it yet so we could talk about it over dinner, so I slotted it in to watch.

To set the tone, I deactivated Facebook earlier this year primarily because I wasn’t into how much data it had of mine, nor of how it was moderating (or rather not moderating) its platforms. I have also deactivated Twitter several times, mostly due to trolling, but as a writer and journalist, you must have Twitter, so I still have a blank account I use to search and lurk..

But Instagram…I was “attached” to it because it was harmless, right? 

Except, of course, it is owned by Facebook, and as any long-time Insta user would know, has become way more commercialised of late.

Wondering how I would feel about Insta once I watched The Social Dilemma, I settled into my couch to watch it, my iPhone in easy reach…because…

Addiction

Yes, addiction, let’s call it what it is, which is to not make light of other far more dangerous addictions.

Yet, if anything, the insidious nature of addiction to digital, primarily the social media aspect of it, and largely through our ever-present and readily accessible smartphones, could almost be considered as bad as the more in-your-face kinds of addiction.

This is the central premise of The Social Dilemma — that big tech, primarily the social media platforms, have tapped into our brains and created, then fed, addiction, particularly among younger people.

Admittedly, the docu-drama parts of the doco showing our “poor kids” being manipulated by big bad social companies were cheesy, even if the points made were all valid. But the actual interviews with ex-tech types from most of the big social platform players were eye-opening, suspicion-confirming and enough to make me pick up my phone as I watched The Social Dilemma, do a data dump from Instagram and then make “Insta-gone”, deactivating and deleting it.

Post-Insta-Post

The day after my Insta-purge, I felt the first niggle of coming off my addiction when, as I walked to get my morning coffee and read the news, I flipped into auto and went to…check my Instagram feed, of course.

I’ve never been a big scroller with Insta…more a poster of cool stuff I saw and an occasional commenter or liker on a friend’s post, so a fairly light user. Because I was never super obsessed with it, besides that first moment of breaking the habit and reforging the neural pathway of “check Insta”, and then another moment later on in the morning when I was out trail walking and again broke the other neural pathway of “take photo for Insta”, I moved on pretty quickly.

In fact, a week later…I was very much “Insta-what”?

Which maybe defeats the argument that social media isn’t as addictive as The Social Dilemma purports it to be.

Truth be told?

I do not miss Instagram at all. I miss aspects of it, such as being able to easily share discrete moments of my life with friends. And yet I’m now actually doing that in a more personal way by taking photos of cool stuff and just sending them via text to the REAL people in my actual social network, not putting them on a platform and hoping to get my little sugar hit when I see how many people like my post.

I may go back to Insta one day, especially if the next (I stress the word “next”, hopefully…) US government prosecutes the case to bring social platforms to account and potentially breaks them up to crack their market power. If this happens, it could also mean social platforms become more responsible and ethical entities than money-making machines…or maybe I’m just dreaming about that.

But why not dare to dream?

Why can’t these platforms be, as their name implies, be “social” digital places that bring people together in a positive way, rather than cashed up feeders of narcissism and echo chambers for some darker shades of what it is to be human?

If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma yet but have had that nagging voice in the back of your head questioning your own use of social media, or are a little concerned about how much your kids are addicted to it, it’s definitely time to watch it.



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