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Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ Tells Us How “Online Things Cause Offline Harms”

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So last night, I was watching this documentary called “The Social Dilemma” which revolves around the topic of how tech giants, especially social networking organizations, are baiting us with their manifestations forcing us to conceive their mode of reality and simulating our senses, therefore, injecting their algorithmic sentience into us.

The show is a mix of high ranked ex-professionals sharing their experiences and the dark side of these organizations and how they propagate their agendas onto us. On the sideways, there’s also a real-life demonstration performed by actors illustrating how a person’s mentality can be beaten by these smart artificial intelligence demeanours.

Experts tell us that the design of these platforms is crafted in a way that overpowers the user psyche to become addicted to it. They’re playing with our psychological senses which keep us engaged onto their platform. Their main emphasis is guided towards how they can extricate our maximum attention onto their applications and hence market advertisements onto our screens as much as they can, making maximum profits.

The show explains the reasons why these platform owners are remarked as some of the wealthiest and influential people on the planet. The show forces us to watch after our habitual patterns and introspect how many dependencies we have on these applications to carry out even simple tasks. It then tries to map out how much power we’re giving them over ourselves and hence getting influenced with something that is mainly brought to us by these ultra-smart machine learning algorithms which learn something new every second, with every event.

“Disinformation For-Profit Model”

The documentary also brings out the current scenarios where misinformation about things can lead to arguments, conflicts, and terror attacks. Also, there was never a time where the spread of misinformation was that high as it is now.

“Fake news on twitter spreads 6x faster than true news”, states NY Times. There’s a reason behind that false information makes more money for companies than true news, the truth is boring or as experts say, it’s a “disinformation for-profit business model”.

It’s usually that we believe what we see or believe what the idols or the person we follow says without fact-checking about it any furtherance. It ends up creating a mob mentality further leading to the radicalisation of our emotions and beliefs. The same thing happens with a person with the opposite mindset in contrast to the person with the former mindset. This conflict often ends up in a confrontation with the same leading to violence and deaths.

The reliance of people on these platforms is up to an extent that it has become the major and primary source for people to obtain their daily news and updates. This gives these platforms sheer power over ourselves and gives them the authority to code our patterns as they like. We’re no more a “user” to them, some experts compare social media users to “zombies” who just consume whatever is available at the moment. To sum up this notion, “online things cause offline harms”.

It’s not that propagandas didn’t exist earlier but to spread them at the ease that is happening currently just was not there. If you ask your parents or grandparents about propagandas that are being spread now, you’ll come to know that they existed way before too, but the intensity of being spread was much lower than what it is now.

Every day, wars are being fought on twitter trends and Instagram likes and no one likes to lag behind. The urge to come out as a social media ninja warrior is at its peak.

Patriotism is measured by the number of posts we make in the name of the nation. Cancel culture seems cool to most Gen-Zs when they can’t even realise how they are getting brain-washed. It might seem weird to believe but most of these trends are scripted and pre-arranged by capitalists.

It’s a matter of how few wealthy people can capitalise their intentions onto people as their slaves and hence use them for their greed. Ask yourselves: Do we want our system to be bidded to the highest bidder?

The show also talks about how the process of making opinions has changed rapidly after the 2010s which has divided people on various grounds. If every person is entitled to their own opinion, then there’s no need for anyone to come together. We’re heading towards a pseudo civil war with people completely segregated and entitled to their own opinions completely neglecting what’s going on in the society. We believe what we see and we go out. Spreading that belief without fact-checking it creates many problems and makes a chain or web of lies.

“How Do You Wake Up From The Matrix When You Don’t Know You’re In It?”

The first step to breaking free from this traumatic trap is to “realise” that we are trapped in it and coming out might be quite intricate but few habits and discipline can go a long way in overcoming this.

These organisations know how to keep our attention hooked to their applications by using these powerful machine learning algorithms which outsmart our conscience in many ways. It’s not the fault of these organizations and the people behind them alone, it’s just that the business model is flawed which needs strict modifications.

Internet Is Nothing But A Gigantic Mall

It’s quite a self-explanatory statement. When we go to a mall, our mind is candy-baited by lots and lots of stuff and susceptibility to many things reduces our mental capabilities to take specific decisions at times. The attention extraction model is not the way human beings need to be treated. There are some ways which are prescribed by experts and psychologists belonging to reputed backgrounds and institutions:

  • “Reduce the number of notifications you’re getting or simply turn it off.”
  • “Never click on the video that is ‘recommended’ to you. Always choose by yourself what you want to watch.”
  • “Make sure you’re getting varied and diversified information. If it something similar, then there’s something wrong.”
  • “Follow people with a different point to view to get exposed to their judgments and check what is happening on the other side of the picture, and then form your calculated opinion.”

Overall, the show gives an insight into subjects that need further investigations and conversations in groups and families. It’s the need of the hour that we go out inspecting about our patterns and not fall into the trap of these platforms blindly. Acknowledging that we’re in the trap is the very first step that can go a long way to recover back to the normal.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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