• Johanna McFarland

The Social Dilemma vs. The Social Solution

I might be super late to the game... but I wanted to write a review on Netflix's The Social Dilemma. I wasn't going to watch it, but after seeing peoples reactions to it, I couldn't resit. After reading the synopsis and reviews, I assumed that the documentary would be very one-sided.... I was hesitate to experience how others thought negatively towards Social Media after so much of my career has relied on it. I've seen so many good things come from the power of Social Media. After watching this documentary I realized that I have a lot of privilege when it comes to this industry and this documentary opened my eyes to a few other point of views.

Going into this, it's important that my readers know, how much I love technology. I love what it can do. I love how customizable it is. I love how it can adapt. All of it! I love it. So watching this documentary where it laid out how algorithms work and all of that, while others were watching in fear... I was watching with a big smile on my face. Sounds coo coo right? Let me explain. I have run multiple online campaigns. I have run ads based on the audiences jobs and interests, and I have also run ads based on the audiences online behaviours. I rely on algorithms to put my ads in front of the right people that might be interested. They work for me professionally and personally. They know me. They put things in front of me that I want to see. Here's the twist: I know how to control my algorithms. I know how they work, therefor I know how to train them to 100% work for me.


Through all of my work and passion for technology, I didn't see how people could ever think that it was bad. I was 100% wrong. This documentary pointed out two groups of people that I didn't think about. 1 - those who don't know how algorithms work and that with every click, you're telling your technology what you want to see. 2 - those who grew up (or will grow up) in the generations after me (I'm a Millennial, the generation after me is Generation Z).

Let's talk about the first group. If you don't know how algorithms work and then you find out how they work, like you will in the documentary The Social Dilemma, then it can be very scary. I get it. It's enough to make you want to throw your phone out the window. But what if, instead of being scared - you learn how to control it. You take the power back. The way I see it is, technology isn't going anywhere. No matter how hard you try, society is not going to revert back to the "good old days". So why not just embrace it? If you learned how you can control your tech, would you overcome your fear? Here's some of my tips for how you can control your tech:

  1. Limit your social media accounts. No one is asking you to be on every single social media platform. It's 2020 and there are literally 2,020 different social media platforms (not really, but you get the point). When social media first hit the scene, Millennials like me, embraced the hell out of them! We wanted to be on every single platform that was launched. My Space, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Snap Chat, Pinterest, Periscope, whatever dating platform there was (who else used Nexopia? lol). There was a new platform launching every minute. Now that we're older... I think we can be more selective. For me, I drew the line at Tik Tok. Now, you'll find me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube. That's it. I use each platform for a different purpose. I use Instagram and Facebook for news and to keep up with friends. I use YouTube for entertainment. I use Pinterest for home decor and recipe ideas. I use all four for inspiration! Outfits, home decor, whatever. I also have a LinkedIn account, but I don't consider that Social Media (should I?)... Some might read this and think, 'this girl is 100% brainwashed by her tech and obsessed with her phone'. Which brings me to my next tip...

  2. Limit your time on social media. Put the phone down and go outside. Put the phone down and cook a nice meal. Put the phone down and have a conversation with your partner or friend. You get the point... With any iPhone (iOs 9 and up) and Android you have access to a nifty little app called, Screen Time. This app shows you exactly how much time you spend on your phone, which apps you visit the most, how many times you pick up your phone everyday. This app has made it easy for me to be mindful of the time I spend on my phone.

  3. Here's where things get tricky. Let's talk, advertisements and suggested posts. As I mentioned before advertisements are placed in front of you based on your job, your interests, and your online behaviours. Online behaviours can range between the things you search for on Google, things you click on, videos you watch until the end, pictures you stop your scroll on, many things. So don't be surprised if you're searching for a new toilet on google and then a bunch of toilet ads show up all over your social media (happened to me). Here's my tip for controlling this part of your digital life (that's right, you can 100% control what your technology knows about you). When you come across an ad, you'll notice a little icon that you can click. Most of the time it's three little dots icon above the ad. That little icon is your weapon against your technology. Stay with me here.... What you'll want to do is click on that little icon and a few options will come up. You can click to learn more about why you are seeing certain ads; this is helpful because most of the time it can give you insight on how and who the ad was set-up to target. You can also select to hide the ad. After selecting this option a few more options will come up. The technology wants to know what it did wrong and why you don't want to see the ad. Here's where it gets interesting.... The options you can select for why you didn't want to see the ad is where you have the most control. You can tell the ad that it is not relevant - meaning you're not interested in what the ad is about. Maybe it was something that you searched once and you are no longer interested in it. Another option you can select is that the ad "knows too much". That's right. You can tell your technology that it knows too much. Crazy eh?

















*The image on the left is from Instagram and the image on the right is from Facebook.






Clicking on ads as they come up to direct them has been a regular practice for me ever since ads got smarter. I'm constantly teaching my tech what I want to see and what I don't want to see. Therefore my platforms are 100% customized for me. If you don't teach your tech what you want to see and what you don't want to see, how is it supposed to know?!

Those are my top tips. Happy to post more if my readers find these helpful. Also, the tips that the experts explain at the end of The Social Dilemma are super helpful! Now, I want to get into my second biggest takeaway from this documentary. Generation Z, or Gen Z as the kids would say.


Gen Z didn't grow up like I did... I grew up in the age where the bulk of the technology we use today was being developed. Therefore I got to grow up in a time where we didn't have smart phones, smart TVs, and social media platforms. And I will be forever grateful for that. I got to be a kid. I played outside every. single. day. I was ALWAYS playing outside. We had TV... me and my brothers had our after-school TV shows and video games. But we didn't have everything that we have today. There was no Facebook, no Instagram, none of that. Again, I am beyond grateful for this fact. I can't imagine what it's like to grow up and have to deal with real life bullies AND online bullies. These Gen Z'ers that are coming up are little warriors. They have to get through SO much before they enter the real world. Woof. I can't even imagine.


This is a group of people that I didn't even think about! The people who don't know life without smart phones. I mentioned above that you might see me as someone who is obsessed with my phone.... well I hate to tell yah, but you're wrong. I know life without my phone. I'm not attached to my phone. In fact, half the time, I'm not even sure where my phone is. I have the privilege to put my phone down, take weekends off social media, all of that.... because I know life without phones. Gen Z doesn't know life without smart technology. I think that it will be our (Millennials) responsibility to teach these Gen Z'ers a life without phones. We need to promote social media breaks, vacations without technology, reading a physical book, whatever. Generation X and Boomers will read this advice and probably think 'good luck with that...'. Which is fair! How much did we as Millennials really listen to or appreciate advice from the generations above us?... but I think we should at least try. I would steer clear of the 'I know better than you' attitude.

To wrap up this post, I want to leave you with one final thought. Technology and generations growing up after us - are two things that we can't stop. Obviously! The world is going to keep moving forward. I think we should all just buckle in and move forward with it. Also, if you read this and think that what I mentioned isn't relevant or that I was stating the obvious.... then you are as wrong as I was. Just because you think and understand things in a certain way, doesn't mean others will be the same.


I give the social dilemma 3.5 stars. The format was a little weird.... with the expert interviews and then dramatic scenes with actors. I also felt like some of the experts were playing up their positions of 'knowing too much', and to me, they were coming off like little Drama Queens. As a Drama Queen myself, I thought it was a bit annoying. It was filled with lots of good information though!


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