A “Social Dilemma” at Marian

BY J1 Reporter Gianna Salerno

Most people would not knowingly sign up for a social media account if they knew that the companies behind the apps and websites were actually advertising them. What began as simply sharing a picture with friends, or a fun way to connect with others, has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry designed to memorize people’s likes, dislikes, categorize people, and overall sell them to other advertisers. 

Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, and technology companies, including Google, have access to people’s exact locations, pictures, texts with friends and family, tastes in music, and so much more. Netflix’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” that came out in September 2020, takes a deep dive into people’s addictions to social media from the people who invented the software themselves. 

In “The Social Dilemma,” tech experts explain how dangerous social networking truly is. People who invented software or were head executives for major corporations explain how companies exploit users for financial gain. The documentary focuses on how technology is designed to be addicting, the effects it has on mental health, and its large use in politics. While this is concerning in and of itself, what might be more concerning is that experts seem to be more afraid of social media than Marian students and faculty are. 

Have you ever opened up your phone, looked up and seen that hours have passed? Have you ever reached for your phone when you don’t know people around you, instead of actually trying to get to know them? Do you pick up your phone, even when you know there’s no new notifications? Is your phone always within arms reach? If you answered yes to all of these questions, congratulations, you’re addicted to your phone! But don’t worry, this technology addiction is shared by both Marian students and faculty.

Marian juniors on technology during lunch instead of talking to one another. Photo credit: Gigi Salerno

Next time open your phone to go on Instagram, take a little bit of time to notice the advertisements that are just a little too similar to what you were talking about on the phone with your friends about the day before. It’s been a recent discovery that even when just speaking about something, rather than typing it in, will still guarantee ads on our devices. Features such as “Hey Siri” beg the question, “If they can hear me say Siri, can they hear me say everything?” Mme Janet Tuttle, Marian’s French teacher says that she’s had too many ads about things she’s spoken about to count. She says that when this first started happening, she was “100 percent freaked out,” but now feels as though “we’ve all sold our souls to Google.”

Junior Baylee Towles said she has a daily screen time average of more than five hours on her phone plus more than seven hours on her iPad. Although she admits to being addicted to her phone, she says “it definitely keeps [her] from being productive-[she’ll] write, like, the title of [her] essay and reward [herself] with an hour on [her] phone.” She also agrees that she’s scared of how much her phone knows about her, “but what are we gonna do about it?”

In this day and age, it can be hard to completely cut ourselves off from social media, especially with our schoolwork being mostly online. With the millions of distractions we can succumb to simply by trying to complete an assignment, it seems impossible not to take the “what can we do” perspective. It can be especially difficult for Gen Z, the first to grow up with social media, to distance themselves from technology since it’s the only thing they’ve ever known. 

Tuttle got her first phone at around 30 years old and also feels addicted to social media. She says that she’s not nervous about how much these companies know about her, she said, “I know it’s happening, but I don’t care enough to go off everything.”

Junior Laura Sullivan, has a much different response to that same question.She says she is nervous. “Yes, because I know that people will take advantage of all that information.” This is the perspective taken by media and technology experts in “The Social Dilemma.” The debate between whether constant access to technology is good or bad begs the question, in this day and age, is it possible to break one’s addiction to social media?

If you don’t have Netflix, here’s a super interesting commentary on “The Social Dilemma.” Hope you enjoy!! 🙂

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