Social Media and Privacy: Are they taking over us?

Over a year ago, the documentary The Social Dilemma was released on Netflix, where it talks all about social media and the way that people are addicted to it and how it can be harmful if not used with the correct precautions or knowledge.

Photo Credit: Youth Journalism International

After watching the documentary, there were many parts of the film that stuck out to me. Alex Roetter, the former VP of Engineering for Twitter, stated “Yeah these things you release them and they take on a life of their own. And how they’re used is pretty different than how you expected.” This one stuck out to me because social media was intended at first was a place for people to be able to connect with others around the world, but now it has become careers for people and businesses are moving towards these platforms to advertise rather than traditional advertisements. Another part that stuck out to me was how the platforms are watching and learning everything about you. Jeff Seibert, the former executive serial tech entrepreneur from Twitter stated “What I want people to know is that everything they are doing online is being watched, is being tracked, is being measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded.” Even Tristan Harris, the former design ethicist for Google, stated “They know when people are lonely, when people are depressed, they know when people are looking at photos of your ex-romantic partners. They know what you are doing late at night. They know the entire thing.”

The film also highlights how social media has distorted our view on ourselves. One of the news reporters in the film stated, “We have gone from the information age into the disinformation age.” While I am aware of the distortion these platforms have created for ourselves, I don’t think that I have this distortion because I grew up watching this distortion slowly take over. I am grateful that my parents did not allow me to have social media until I graduated from high school because it taught me how to appreciate and love myself without comparison and allowing this distortion to take over my life.

Photo Credit: @natsphotos_18 on Instagram | Graphic Credit: Natalie Gonzalez

A lot of this distortion I have noticed has come from photos and how they are edited. Seeing how others are editing themselves and distorting their bodies to fit the standard is sickening. As a photographer, I don’t like to follow these old ways of editing photos because I feel that it is important for people to see their genuine emotions and embrace who they are in a photo. Using simple editing techniques such as applying presets, removing a distracting object, or adding doodles to an image are yes forms of distortion to an image, but it does not distort the person or object themselves. It helps keep the true raw and realness of an image and what people look like even though there is that distortion on them. Also, I do share before and after edits on my photo Instagram for people to see the process of editing a photo and how I use these edits for creative purposes.

This film also talks about the idea of human willpower can’t be expected and I have to disagree. There are ways to form healthy relationships with technology, such as setting time restrictions on apps or devices as a whole. Seeing your screen time also helps you realize how much time you actually spend on your devices and what apps you spend the most time on.

Photo Credit: MacRumors

I remember doing a challenge for a class where I couldn’t use technology for an entire weekend. At first, it was very easy, but as time went on, it helped me realize how I use my devices to connect with family and friends from home. The experience I have had from disconnecting was a freeing experience and helped me realize how simple life was prior to having technology. I was able to accomplish more tasks and have more time for myself. This challenge also had me realize that I use social media for mostly my job/career and also to share things that I do with my very large extended family. It was interesting for me to see that I wasn’t driving back to my social media apps right away for me to see what was going on within my world, but more for work purposes.

After watching this film, there are ways that I plan to keep my social media to a certain privacy setting. Learning about the social media, digital media, and telecommunication industries throughout my undergraduate and now graduate studies has helped me realize how fortunate I am to learn about privacy on the Internet. My plan going forward is to share the knowledge that I have learned throughout my education to make others aware of ways they can keep themselves more private on social media. Also, I plan on disconnecting more from technology throughout the day and plan to even do a disconnect challenge when I feel that I am being overwhelmed by technology.

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