The Social Dilemma - what does this mean for our classrooms?

Uncategorized Sep 29, 2020
Netflix has just released a new documentary called ‘The Social Dilemma’ and it is making waves. It dives into our use of social media, or rather, social media’s usage of us. 
That’s right - IT uses US. WE are the product. 
The amount of data gathered on us, based on our activity on social media is huge. This data is then used to influence us, whether it be by companies to buy their products, or to vote certain ways in elections for example, without us even being aware of it. 
Apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiki Tok, Twitter, and so on are designed in order to keep us addicted to using them, so that we spend more time on them, therefore giving them more data on us. 
Whilst there have been some positive impacts of social media, there are many negative implications for the future of our society: 
  • Mental health: there has been a rise in depression, anxiety and suicide within the teen population that seems to have a high degree of correlation to the increased use of social media. This is due to a number of factors, such as continually seeking external validation through ‘likes’ and comments as a measure of self-worth. Online bullying is rife, of which there is no escape. Constant comparison to people's 'highlight reels' creates feelings of inadequacy. It’s also causing a lack of sleep, which impacts on both physical and mental health, as well as the ability to focus and concentrate at school or work. 
  • Impacts on social connection - whilst social media has increased the amount of ‘connection’ in various ways, it impacts upon real-life social connection, such as parents who ignore their children because they are addicted to their phones, to teenagers who sit together on their phones instead of having a conversation. A lack of real-life social connection can impact on our emotional and mental wellbeing (as has been made extremely evident during lock-downs as a result of the pandemic). 
  • It causes people to be ‘consumers’ rather than ‘creators’ - our world needs more creators and problem solvers in order to deal with the challenges of the future, however we spend so much time consuming information on social media that it leaves very little time for us to create or come up with anything original. 
  • It’s changing our brain - the constant scrolling has shortened our attention span and increased rates of distraction. 
  • The age of ‘disinformation’ - many people are being led astray by ‘fake news’, which is perpetuating biases and causing more division and conflict in society. 
  • A weakened democracy - social media increases the chances of your vote being influenced by a biased perspective, as the algorithm is designed to keep giving you the same type of content that you have previously viewed, liked or commented on. This means that you are not getting any alternative perspectives, which inhibits your ability to make a fully informed decision. There is also the potential to use social media to influence an election result, as can be seen in the 2016 election in America, in which Russia used Facebook in order to spread disinformation, in order to create tension, distrust, confusion and disillusionment.
So what does this mean for our classrooms? 
  • Awareness and education - we need to be taking any opportunity available to educate our students on this topic so that they are aware of the potential negative impacts and how best to manage them.
  • Spend more time in class developing important 21st century skills, such as: 
    • Critical thinking skills - more time needs to be spent on helping students develop their ability to think critically and assess information for reliability and bias. 
    • Knowledge construction - the creation of new ideas and knowledge. 
    • Creativity, innovation and problem solving. 
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Collaboration/ people skills 
These are the skills that will combat the negative effects of social media, and these are also the skills that will be in high demand by employers, so it makes sense that this should be our focus as teachers. 
What are your thoughts on this topic? 

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