At the risk of being a little unpopular, Netflix’s new documentary The Social Dilemma, came off as a little over dramatised to us at KLIKD. Manipulating human behaviour for profit or political affiliation is not a new concept. That social media is used to affect and influence our buying patterns, voting prejudices or group affiliations is not also not a new concept. And as much as we wish it weren’t so, what we really know is that teens don’t really care if their data is being manipulated (aah that’s for another day’s discussion).
What we can’t support is the documentary’s major fear mongering around the idea that we are being watched with razor sharp precision until we are left totally powerless to make our own decisions or feel our own feelings.
Yes Facebook, Insta, TikTok, and every other big tech company are using algorithms to offer just the right influencer with just the right product but our teen’s FREE CHOICE still exists. And it exists in buckets!!
Look at how powerfully teens used social media to affect what THEY are wanting – be it with the BLM movement, climate change or creating empty chairs at a voting rally.
What is significant is that the movie invites us to care and to take cognizance of our own behaviour. Now THIS – is news.
So, today’s parenting challenge: Instead of questioning whether the technology is causing the mindless decay of our youth or if it is just a reflection of our already taxed capitalist hearts, let’s get back to the basics of helping our teens recognise if, when and how they are being manipulated to make the choices they make online.
Here are some conversation starters:
- What’s the thing you most love to search for online (make up tutorials, latest sneakers, Fortnite players,…their list is endless)?
- Do you notice what pops up after you’ve done a search like that – what do you get offered?
- What social movements or hashtags have you followed, joined or even liked online (BLM climate change groups, anti-trump, anti BDS, pro-abortion)
- Do you know that gives the guys behind the scenes a big insight into who they THINK you are. They don’t know for sure, but then they send you similar feeds until you are only getting one side of the picture. This makes us believe most people think like we do and when we feel that way we become intolerant of others’ views. This is dangerous because it makes us narrow minded and bigoted.
- Do you ever complete online competitions that offer you a chance to win xxx and then suddenly ads for that exact item keep appearing – does that make you want their sneakers more or less? How come?
- What irritates you most when you keep being asked to sign up for or buy something – how do you get out of that online loop?
- Have you ever thought of searching on Insta groups that hold totally different views to yours – how does it feel to see the ‘others’ views on a topic?
You get the idea guys. We have to keep helping our teens to question their online behaviour so that their behaviour doesn’t become questionable. And then, rest.