The new documentary on Netflix, “The social dilemma” got a lot of people talking and suddenly the question was raised, maybe social media is bad. And as usual you go to the extreme, they are bad and they shouldn’t exist. We have an incendiary combination by including in this documentary people who helped build these social networks (ex-employees of Twitter, Facebook, etc) and who make their warnings and mea culpa (I would be curious to know if any of them donated the money they earned to fight the evil they helped to create).
The issue is not new and is very important. The documentary does well to raise some issues, but we need to go further, to show both sides of the problem. If it comes to make things change, welcome. If it is just entertainment and quickly moves on to the next fashionable issue, then congratulations Netflix! Interestingly, this company is not mentioned in the documentary, but it is one of the best at manipulating data (although it does not allow the purchase of advertising at the moment, but it can influence opinions with the programs and series it recommends).
What concerns me most is the impact. By not making a good case for the argument, will it change anything? How many people have permanently decreased their use of social media after watching it? Every time news like this comes out, a lot of noise, but the stock market value of these companies keeps going up, nor the number of users. Several well-known brands saying they would not advertise on Facebook for a period, or celebrities suspending their account for 24 hours? Do you really want to have an impact? Close their accounts permanently, but of course since the money is good, you only do it for 24 hours. The same greed motivation that these companies are being criticized for.
About the question, “would we be better off without social media”? I don’t think so, I think the net effect for society is positive. There is a lot of “fake news” and it has to be controlled, but having access to the production and dissemination of content is no worse than having certain economic groups that have too much power over the media and can perpetuate certain situations.
Besides many other benefits, social and political movements can be created in social networks with positive impacts. We must not ignore the impact on suicides and depression, among others that the documentary mentions. And there are even more serious issues that, by not being so simple, are not mentioned. Have you noticed the message on Instagram, which is joining the messages with those of Facebook Messenger and soon WhatsApp. This was something that Mark Zuckerberg had said was impossible when he bought the latter. But it is already happening, and they got a ridiculous fine (sort of a pat on the hand). This yes is a serious blow towards a Facebook monopoly and data abuse, but one that most people ignore.
The legislation is critical, complex, because we are talking about concepts of “good” and “evil” and a potential censorship that is very dangerous. These companies also do not have an easy mission. It is fundamental to develop education, not only of the people but also of the political system to be able to legislate (not the shameful hearings that happened in the US Congress).
Social media is not going anywhere, it is here to stay. But just as the pharmaceutical industry is regulated by the social impact it has, these companies have to comply with strict rules.