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'The Social Dilemma': Here are 5 tips from experts that you must follow to avoid social media manipulation

One thing we are filled with after watching 'The Social Dilemma' is existential dread along with the need to throw our phone in the trash
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

How many times have we heard the advice to put down our phones and go outside? The lack of exercise and related illnesses are not the only things we have to worry about our incessant social media usage. Netflix's latest documentary 'The Social Dilemma' highlights that there is a much bigger, and far worse problem that can have an intergenerational impact on civilization itself. Featuring prominent people from the software industry like co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology and former Google employee Tristan Harris, the "father of virtual reality" Jaron Lanier, and co-inventor of the Like button on Facebook Justin Rosenstein, 'The Social Dilemma' dives into how deeply social media's manipulation of humanity goes.

Sure, we know that they collect our data and sell it to companies so that we are shown ads, but this data is used to build a predictive model of the user to determine their future actions — models that get much more accurate with more data and more social media usage. This is where the true danger of social media usage comes in. Under the hands of a greedy capitalist or an authoritarian, these models can be used to disrupt democracies. Some may say that this has happened already given how Facebook contributed to the 2016 United States elections and the violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya people.

One thing we are filled with after watching 'The Social Dilemma' is existential dread and while the credit starts rolling, watching them play out will bring some of the useful tips the featured experts suggest to keep a check on how social media is controlling us. We have made a list of them here for you to check out.

Deleting Unnecessary Apps

The most common advice given by the experts is to uninstall the apps. It is simple — if you are not using these applications, you are not giving them data. These applications can include social media apps and news apps — anything you may feel might waste your time. But often, this is a step that many could be unwilling to take. Then, the next tip is what you can look at.

Turn Off All Notifications

The more time you spend on social media, the more data they collect. All social media apps have one thing in common — they are competing for your attention. Have you ever wondered about those random notifications on Facebook or Instagram about people who are still on your friends/following list but you don't interact with them much longer? Those are simply ways the apps use to reel you back in. In fact, Facebook used the photo tagging feature to keep users online and bring more users to their app.

An alternative to Google

Google stores your search history. One of the suggestions by the experts is to use an alternative that does not store your search history which can then be used to make predictive models or for ad revenues. The alternative suggested on 'The Social Dilemma' is Qwant, a search engine that does not track or personalize search results.

Don't accept recommendations

When you are scrolling on YouTube, never accept the recommended video. Rather, always choose what you want to watch next. There are Chrome extensions that remove recommendations — this comes recommended by ‪Guillaume Chaslot, who helped build the recommendation algorithm for YouTube.

Learn more

This is not one that is recommended in the documentary but given that many of the experts featured have their own books, it is worthwhile to mention that the more you learn, the easier it becomes to avoid the traps and pitfalls you did not know about. Books like Lanier's 'Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,' Shoshana Zuboff's 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power,' and Tim Wu's 'The Attention Merchants' are a good place to start.

'The Social Dilemma' is now streaming on Netflix.