Is Social Media Using Us Like Puppets?

 In Communication, Relationships

Lots of friends have recommended the documentary, The Social Dilemma, so I knew it would be interesting. And it certainly was! The film discusses how social media has turned into a tool that uses each of us in ways we don’t even realize. It distracts us. It manipulates us. It watches us. It divides us. It controls us. And the list goes on. It’s like we’re puppets in a show.

One of the topics that disturbed me the most was the fact that the news and posts in our feeds are chosen to validate our current beliefs. Algorithms monitor what we search for and what we read. So instead of giving us accurate information from a broad perspective, it selectively chooses pieces that make us feel right. AND we think that everyone else is seeing the same information so how could they NOT agree with us? They must be ignorant, stupid, or bad people!!

No wonder there is so much polarization and distrust in our society, our workplaces, and even in our families! We think our opinions, beliefs, and decisions are based on facts, but we’re only seeing a few hand-picked pieces of “data.” And these pieces are likely different than what our friend, neighbor, or coworker are seeing.

What can we do? Here is a four-step approach to try:

  1. Be aware of the intentional bias in the search results, the posts, and the news you are being fed via social media.
  2.  Try to keep an open mind when other people have different opinions and beliefs instead of letting the social media moguls influence you.
  3.  Use curiosity and compassion to learn more about why other people believe what they believe. Calmly and kindly ask them to tell you more.
  4.  Offer up pieces of data from both sides and suggest that our opinions are influenced by the information we see.

The goal of The Social Dilemma is to change how technology is designed, regulated, and used so we can better manage the negative impact of social media while encouraging its benefits. But in the meantime, we can improve our happiness and our relationships by being a catalyst for curiosity and not a puppet.

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Poem by Morgan Harper Nichols