By Meghan Durkin (VI)
I fill my time with endless technological stimulation; when the weekly notification pops up, informing me of an alarmingly high screen time, I’m embarrassed. I balance my phone on my laptop to watch two shows at once, fall asleep clutching my laptop more often than I’d like to admit, and wonder how numerous hours have passed, it’s dark, and I’m still on a “quick Netflix break.”
It’s normal though, right? Everyone is constantly on their phones; there is simply no downtime from technology. Phones offer a nice distraction, an endless Band-Aid that coats our worries with instant gratification and content. That’s our normal, and I find it fascinating.
So, when the recent buzz around The Social Dilemma surfaced, I grabbed my phone, opened Netflix, and sat down for a watch. The documentary explores the negative impacts of social media, from its ramifications on mental health to its addictive properties. Not only does The Social Dilemma stress the cruel motives behind social platforms, but it also uses the creators of these platforms to deliver the message. These creators range from former executives at Twitter and Facebook to the former president of Pinterest and numerous other early team members from the world’s most popular social media platforms. It’s scary that even those who helped build these “tools,” fear the damage they’ve inflicted.
Unfortunately, there is no group more at risk from these technologies than teens; the platforms we’ve inherited present one of our greatest challenges as a generation, especially in terms of mental health. As The Social Dilemma mentions, the rise in suicide rates for teens has skyrocketed since the birth of social media. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased 56% over the last decade, an distressingly rapid increase.
Though there is nothing new to the claims that social media is “harmful,” The Social Dilemma got me thinking: if we know how harmful it is, why can’t we stop using it? Here’s my thought: we can’t stop using social media because even those who tell us to “put the phone down” can’t help but force us to use it more and more.
Take Pingry’s social media presence for example. While we are constantly told to get off our phones, or focus in class, the school itself uses social media platforms to endorse itself or inform its community. With the addition of Pingry Plus this year, a platform directly aimed at students, the irony cannot be lost. The same people that urge students to waste less time on our phones, give us more reasons to use them.
Thus, more than anything else, The Social Dilemma opened my eyes to the greater hypocrisy of social networking. The platforms are created by those who denounce using it, are criticized by schools who profit from it, and complained about by older generations who swarm to the platforms. And through it all, we are the generation that ultimately suffers for it.
It’s terrifying to think we never free our minds from our screens; we inhibit the wandering of our thoughts and contemplation of wants by filling our space with social media. We watch videos while we eat breakfast, listen to podcasts while we walk, and play music while we exercise. Though, I’d like to think it’s not exactly our fault. These platforms, created by an older generation to monopolize on the weakness of a younger one, are meant to be addicting. Even Netflix, the greatest time-suck of them all, knows we aren’t the ones at fault.