Following the release and popularity of The Social Dilemma, asocial media documentary on Netflix, I had a chat on PowerFM about the double-edged sword that is social media. On one hand social networks are powerful for spreading a message, as well as connecting us with friends and family. On the other hand, we give our data and there can be adverse effects to social media usage.
In my conversation with POWER Weekend Breakfast hosts, Pabi Moloi and Mvangeli Nzuza, social media usage and safety on the web were the most important aspects. The Social Dilemma does not offer anything new for the advanced social media user. But in my opinion, it enables important discussions to be had around smart usage of social media and how we can all be wary of what we share.
When I saw the documentary for the first time, I felt it suggested that the platforms have more power than users in a way that we are victims of these algorithms. After some comments and discussions with people in my network, I have since changed my stance a bit. It is important to educate more people about how their usage of social media can have adverse real-world effects.
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product,” is a saying that is peddled in the documentary, which is partly true when you consider how much advertising funds these platforms. It is up to the user to be more discerning around the content they consume across Facebook, Twitter and all other social networks.
We also spoke about the spread of fake news which tends to trend across platforms and influences the public narrative. Some fake news and disinformation campaigns have budget and some accounts helping to share the content. At times, this is because some people don’t read links and articles that are shared – which they also share and contribute to spreading.