The Social Dilemma

Sequoia Powell
6 min readNov 20, 2021

The day Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp went down was tragic. It was the longest six hours of our lives! Talk about the Monday blues.

Seriously, you would have thought the world was ending. The way people around my office were freaking out was crazy.

Plus, the number of people who ran to Twitter to find out what was going on and try to regain connection with the social media world was INSANE.

It was one of the top stories in the news all week.

Truth moment! I was one of those people. Yep! I am guilty of restarting my Instagram and then rebooting my phone altogether before asking others if they were having the same issue.

Of course, I logged into my Twitter app on my phone and did a quick trending search to see if there were any updates. Once I saw that the social media platforms were trending on Twitter with outages, I was a bit relieved to know it wasn’t just me, but it didn’t stop me from constantly checking my phone until the platforms were back online.

Who knew the absence of social media would have such a significant effect on the world? Well, apparently, the people behind Netflix’s The Social Dilemma did.

After watching the documentary, there were a few moments that resonated with my experience.

One thing that immediately resonated is that I use social media for almost everything from cooking recipes, workouts, places to eat, etc.

Similar to the mom and sister in the documentary, I often tell my siblings that they should take a break from social media, not realizing that I am just as addicted as they are.

I use social media to find new recipes, fashion pieces, restaurants, things to do, workout routines, beauty tips, etc. Considering all of these things existed before social media, I am sure I can achieve them without it. I will just take a little more work and research.

With that said, I have to reevaluate my usage time and find ways to be innovative instead of relying on social media.

Honestly, I think I could stay off my phone for 24 hours, especially if I had a busy day planned out. The notification that may compel me to interact with my phone is if it involves Beyonce, and since she rarely posts, I should be good for one day.

Another thing that resonated with me was the strong willpower it takes to set boundaries with social media.

There have been countless times where I told myself that I would plug my phone up on the other side of the room. Yep, it never happened.

I spend too much time on social media before I go to bed. I even had to delete TikTok from my phone a few times to force myself to unplug before bed.

After watching this documentary, though, I plan to work a little harder to set healthy boundaries.

The film makes it clear that human willpower can’t be expected to compete with AI fairly, so we as humans have to develop healthy relationships with technology.

Here are three ways we can do accomplish healthier relationships with technology:

No Notifications

We can remove all notifications that are not urgent. This includes all social media platforms, emails, news, etc.

If you use your phone for work, no problem. You can now set up times where your phone will automatically block all notifications, like Apple’s Focus feature.

Screen-Free Day

Add a screen-free day to your week where you disconnect and enjoy the things around you.

You can incorporate activities with family and friends that benefit everyone’s well-being. It allows you to take in what’s around you without being concerned with what’s online.

It may be hard the first few weeks, but eventually, you will be looking forward to it. It’s just one day. You can do anything for one day.

Get An Alarm Clock

(Panda Security, 2021)

It may seem easier just to use your phone as an alarm clock, but trust it has an effect. Tell me you don’t start scrolling through your Instagram after you hit snooze on your phone.

Exactly! Instead, get yourself an old-school alarm clock or use your smart device like Alexa or Google Home to wake you up in the morning.

In addition, it is unbelievable the amount of time that passes by when I get caught in a rabbit hole on TikTok or YouTube.

Literally, hours pass by as I scroll and watch video after video on TikTok, especially when I find a hashtag that I find interesting I can be there all day.

It’s worse on YouTube now that I can watch any video in picture-in-picture mode on my iPhone.

I can watch a video and scroll through Instagram at the same time.

It’s ok. I now know I have a problem, thanks to this documentary.

In the documentary, the younger daughter took a photo of herself and quickly added a filter before posting.

(Women’s Health Magazine, 2021)

This resonated with me because I’m definitely guilty of using apps like Facetune to edit my photos to meet the “perfect image” standards of social media.

It’s crazy how the edited photo makes you feel better online, but not in reality.

This has affected society tremendously, so much so that they want to physically alter their faces and bodies to look like filters. I don’t plan to give up filters altogether, but I vow to post more raw content and perform mental health checks to stay present.

Another thing that resonated with me was how much social media controls my emotions and distorts my views. Seriously, it can have me laughing, crying, envious, mad, etc.

For example, if I see someone from my high school is living their dreams and is more accomplished than me, social media has me feeling envious of them rather than happy.

Another example of how social media distorts our views of reality is when friends stop talking because of likes and shares.

Seriously, this is not a drill. I have seriously lost friends because of this.

A friend removed herself from our friend group because she didn’t feel supported on social media even though we were all supportive in real life.

It’s almost like that movie Disney’s Inside Out, where the emotions all work to guide a preteen girl’s life. Social media platforms are literally guiding our lives, what we do, how we feel, who we date, what we think. Scary, right?

With that said, I am going to be more cognizant of what I allow social media to influence me to do.

After watching the film, I don’t plan to change any of my privacy settings on social media since I already set them to my preference. I don’t mind being served content and ads based on my behavior. However, I can control how often I interact with those ads and suggestions when using the platforms. Boundaries are key!

With this in mind, you should evaluate your social media intake and set healthy boundaries to benefit your mental health and well-being. Thank me later!

Happy evaluating!