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The Social Dilemma Explains How Social Media Platforms Create Anarchy

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The Social Dilemma is a documentary by seasoned documentary maker Jeff Orlowski which takes the viewer on a roller coaster journey, ranging from the effects programming codes have on society to the intricacies of the human mind. This documentary aims to shed light on the addictive nature of Social Media and modern-day internet.

“If you are not paying for the product, then YOU are the product.”

The documentary explains that in the case of Internet websites, i.e. Chrome, Instagram, Facebook etc., the users do not pay any money to the companies. This can mean only one thing that we are not the customers, somebody else is. 

That somebody else is the Advertisers who aim to reach more and more eyeballs and influence people into using their products. They pay the web platforms to run their advertisements before the interested users. This form of targeted marketing can result in a serious return of investments.

These platforms have three basic goals:

  1. Engagement: to keep the existing users on the platform for as much time as possible by making it more interesting.
  2. Monetization: to show relevant advertisements to relevant users.
  3. Growth: to get more and more new people to sign up on the platforms.

These tech giants use very complicated Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to manage all these goals. These intricate softwares collect all the data from users’ activities like their interests from their Watch history and use of Like buttons. They render a user model that includes all their likes, interests, things that might upset a user, etc.

Social Media
Positive Reintermittent Reinforcement and makes us habitual of repeatedly checking our mobile phones.

These companies then use this data to show us preferable ads according to our changing psyche or recommend us the next funny cat video or picture to our political liking. These modern-day platforms tap into the vulnerabilities of our ancient brains for their benefit. 

For example, to increase engagement on the platform notifications are the best tool. Whenever we get a new notification, for example, about getting tagged in a new photo by our friend, we instantly pick up and check the social media feed and end up giving these platforms an hour or so of our times. 

Websites like Facebook and Instagram are like vegas slot machines. Every time we refresh, there is more interesting content to munch upon, similar to pulling the lever of a slot machine because we think maybe this time we will get a jackpot. This is called Positive Reintermittent Reinforcement and makes us habitual of repeatedly checking our mobile phones.

According to Dr Anna Lembke, Director of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University, “We have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people that directly affects the release of dopamine in our brain. Millions of years of evolution work behind this system to get us to come together and live in communities, to find mates, to spread our species. So there is no doubt that a vehicle like social media, which optimizes this connection between people is going to have the potential for severe addiction.”

Social media seduces the human mind and the dopamine release from a mention in an Instagram comment is the ultimate orgasm. This habit of the unnatural release of dopamine can lead to actual physical problems like higher tolerance against this happiness hormone, dopamine deficit state and withdrawal symptoms. 

Social media giants use certain features — Likes, Hearts and Thumbs Up — as a virtual currency on the platforms. They create a fake sense of achievement imparted by how many of these symbols one receives on an image posted. They make the users strive harder and harder to earn more of these Likes and Hearts because this ensures our engagement and the engagement of the users reacting to their photos. 

This also leaves users hooked to this short-lived, hollow, worthless and fake sense of acknowledgement quite similar to the addiction of medicinal drugs as they leave the victims seeking a short-lived and fake feeling of happiness. Humans have evolved to care about whether other people in our tribe think well of us because it matters. But we were not evolved to have social approval being dosed to us every 5 minutes.

social media
The widespread use of social media and similar tech platforms has essentially trained and conditioned a whole generation of people.

Use of features similar to the Like button starts affecting user’s confidence, self-worth and identity. According to research done by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, since 2010 the number of teenagers admitted into hospitals for inflicting self-harm has gone up by more than 62% compared to the previous decade, i.e. 2000–10. We can see a similar rise in the number of suicide attempts where the number has gone up by more than 70%.

The widespread use of social media and similar tech platforms has essentially trained and conditioned a whole generation of people that we can have this digital pacifier cum entertainer on this small handheld device when we are uncomfortable or lonely or afraid. This habit has severely affected human psychology’s innate qualities to deal with common issues of everyday life. This leaves users more and more dependent on the use of technology and inhibits the development of a person’s natural personality.

The AI engines that these platforms use know what kind of content a particular user likes to see. Based on these predictions and various data models, the AI present only the type of content a person likes to see. They do not show the other side of issues and keep on feeding the user content, which proves their ideology or thoughts to be true. 

For example, Youtube recommendations only show the video of issues a person believes in. An ideological rights winger will only be shown content which he is to like. They do not show the other side of the coin. This can lead to the narrowing of the user’s mind and the inability to create a meaningful dialogue.

Instances like Mob lynching in India and Pizzagate in the USA showcases the power of manipulation which social media holds over the common population. Cases like the Russian manipulation of the US elections reiterates the polarising nature of modern technology.

According to the documentary, technology is to blame for all this increasing anarchy today, but we cannot ignore the human role in unwittingly creating this monster. 

Overall, this documentary is an interesting watch because it is extraordinarily new and it necessarily underlines the modern-day threat technology poses in front of humanity. 

We imagine the harms of AI as something that will affect us in future and will undermine human strengths in the form of Robot wars, etc. But before that stage comes, much earlier in the timeline, a moment has already come where technology has become capable of undermining human weaknesses.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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