Social media companies don’t really have our best interest at heart


Photo Illustration by Aanya Sharma

Download the app or find a website. Fill out the information. Agree to terms and conditions. Start using. This is the typical way most of us get started on an app or website. While we mindlessly scroll through social media, we are willingly giving away information about ourselves, our likes and dislikes or even personal information. 

The recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma opens viewers’ eyes to show people are spoon fed information we want to know and choose to believe through the use of filter bubbles. Every single one of our actions online are being recorded and monitored to provide use with this custom feed. What’s worse is that most users don’t even know that this is happening. People are now products for tech titans, but consumers need to work to not become the product. 

Using social media only serves corporate and government agendas as they generally do not serve democratic goals or achieve democratic outcomes. According to co-founder of the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dan Gillmor, governments (and their corporate partners) are broadly using technology to create a surveillance state, and what amounts to law by unaccountable black-box algorithm, far beyond anything Orwell imagined. We live in an age where there is no true privacy, all of our personal information is being recorded and closely monitored. Information that is collected by these platforms are often sold to third party corporations. Even though we don’t pay to use this platform with real money, we are paying with our information. 

Social media is where we try to present our “perfect selves,” but what we see on social media is not what is happening on a day to day basis. While looking at the perfect lives of everyone else, we often see our self confidence begin to decrease. According to former Google design ethicist and Tristan Harris, there are entire teams of engineers whose sole purpose is to use your psychology against you. Every algorithm simply works by suggesting content that gains the most clicks and view time, rather than accuracy and as a result, what we look at will continue to show up in our feeds or in the form of advertisements. 

Even though many argue for the good traits of social media as it provides general education, a platform for activism and philanthropy, it isn’t even being used by tech moguls who have helped develop the technology. According to Business Insider, many of the tech world’s leading giants, whose products have been used by millions perhaps billions around the world, are now intent on limiting their child’s screen time. In 2011, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the first to admit that not even his own kids have touched the iPad. Millions of people are using the technology, but those who created it don’t even allow their own children to use it. 

Despite knowing all this, are people really going to read over that long terms and conditions document on every site they visit? So how do we fight this? There are many things that people could do to combat addiction to their devices. A few examples researchers from the Social Dilemma is to fact check before you reshare, uninstall apps that waste time, turn off push notifications from apps and choose what videos or media you want to see yourself rather than falling victim to these customized feeds. Be more aware of these consequences and realize what you are getting into by using social media. If all else fails, we can always decide for ourselves to leave these social media platforms altogether.