On September 9th, 2020, Netflix released a new documentary about the consequences of everyone’s addiction to social media and the internet. In “The Social Dilemma,” many people who used to work in the social media industry were interviewed and asked their opinions on what exactly they think is wrong with our society and the technology that’s behind everything.
One of the interviewees, Tristan Harris, used to be a design ethicist at Google before the intense dangers of technology addiction became clear to him. While working at Google, he sent around a presentation to his coworkers called “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention.” In the presentation, he explained how Google, Apple, Facebook, and other powerful companies, should feel responsible to make sure that humanity doesn’t completely rely on their smartphones.
Two years later, in 2015, Harris left Google and eventually co-founded the Center for Humane Technology so that he may bring more awareness to the problems our society faces. The main goal for the Center for Humane Technology is to “radically reimagine technology infrastructure and business models that actually align with humanity’s best interests.”
One of Harris’s most thought provoking messages is as follows: “The more choices technology gives us in nearly every domain of our lives (information, events, places to go, friends, dating, jobs)– the more we assume that our phone is always the most empowering and useful menu to pick from. Is it?” People must realize that technology companies usually do not have the best interest of their customers in mind, and they use their user’s addictions in order to make money and become even more powerful.
Although it’s hard to remove oneself from social media in the midst of a pandemic, people must be aware of the time they spend on the internet and know when enough is enough. If you’re up to the challenge, try to limit your screen time and turn off (or ignore) notifications that are not time sensitive; and while you’re at it, watch The Social Dilemma.