Most of you have probably watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix by now, or at least have heard about it. It’s a documentary-drama that explores the impact of social networking and interviews a handful of tech experts voicing their concerns about the platforms they helped create.
As someone who has built a career around these very social platforms, I wanted to share my perspective—the good, the bad, and everything in-between. Let’s dive into the social abyss together.
My Start in Social
When I was 13 years old, I got a Myspace account. I carefully curated my top eight, picked my profile song, “Hey There Delilah,” and lived my best internet life. Or so I thought. Looking back, it caused some insecurities, a fraction of what kids deal with today. “Why was I only number three in Katie’s top eight? I was number two yesterday. Did something happen? Are we even friends anymore?”
A year later, I arrived on Facebook at 14 years old. My entire life revolved around status updates and taking my digital camera everywhere – iPhones didn’t exist back then, kids – and uploading 100+ pictures after every outing with my friends.
Looking back, I’m thankful social media wasn’t a thing during my pre-teen years. Self-esteem nowadays is built on a currency of likes. I felt some of that in high school, but not to the extent kids do today when they have a TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter by the time they’re ten years old. My one-year-old goddaughter already knows how to take her photo using Snapchat filters.
The Social Dilemma
Back in my teenage years, if you would’ve told me I would have built a career in social media, I would have thought you were crazy. I wouldn’t have been able to fathom the businesses that would overtake these platforms and that they would monetize them through a stream of targeted advertisements. As a teenager, I just thought it was a fun way to stay in touch with my friends and see which parties happened that weekend. Today, social media has become so much more than that.
I’ve seen it be used as a force for good, even in my work at Coyne’s Healthcare Practice. Social media has allowed me to connect patients, share valuable information, and form meaningful relationships. I create the ads, and I get served them – rather effectively, I might add. But there is another side.
Social media today has consequences. And not just the consequences I was told on how nothing ever gets deleted from the internet and you need to be careful of what you post. That was simply child’s play, although it still holds true. Your data is being stored and businesses are using that very data to target you with the content they think you’ll be most receptive to – myself included. I’ve also seen it spread wild misinformation and target likeminded people to disseminate those very falsehoods en masse. I’ve seen it be used as a divisive tool to pit people against each other who don’t share the same beliefs. It has effectively fostered an “us against them” mentality. Today, social media has directly impacted our democracy, our mental health and our very beliefs.
Is it even acceptable for someone whose job relies on social media to say that I have a love-hate relationship with it? I think it is essential to see both sides at all times, and I feel privileged to work for a company who doesn’t copy-edit out these opinions or try to wordsmith my beliefs.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Social media isn’t going anywhere. Frankly, we need it – or at least the “connection” part of it. Though I could argue, I also need the Instagram ads my wallet continues to fall victim to. Social media has proved to be a valuable tool for connection through this pandemic. It’s allowed us to stay in touch and see photos of loved ones we can no longer hug. It has also proved to be a powerful tool to spread anti-mask wearing misinformation. We need platform creators stepping up and acknowledging the flaws in their creations, as so many have done in The Social Dilemma, and figure out a path forward that protects our democracy and our children. I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. I want all social media professionals to join me as I vow to use these platforms as a source for good – to foster connections and bring people together rather than tear them apart, and to fact-check myself before hitting the “post” button. I hope you all will join me in doing the same.