Pranav Malhotra Profile picture
Sep 13, 2020 12 tweets 4 min read Read on X
Okay, so I watched #TheSocialDilemma last night and some elements of it really annoyed me and I’m still thinking about them. So, here’s a thread. (1/12)
Half of the documentary really plays into the pathologizing social media use as an addiction narrative. This narrative has been challenged by many people (e.g. ). @mariek_vda also talks about this in her work on digital well-being. (2/12)
When framed in this way, the alternative presented is complete abstention from social media. This is also what is pushed in the documentary (they’re still talking about screen time as one thing!). We know that moderate and especially active use can also be beneficial. (3/12)
The documentary also correlates the rise in mental health issues after 2011 to the popularity of mobile social media and makes a causal argument. Again, many people have challenged this. Here’s a video from @sonialivingstone (4/12)
What is shocking is that this moral panic-type argument about our kids being destroyed is left in without anyone challenging it. Maybe ask people like @Livingstone_S who have spent their lives researching children and social media? (5/12)
Okay, so the other thing, most of the documentary is based on tech designers talking about how they regret building platforms designed to keep people engaged. Talk about humane and ethical design is great and a good conversation to have. (6/12)
But no one ever even acknowledges that most of these designers and leaders at these companies are white dudes (or UC Indians in some cases). Why is that acknowledgment important you may ask? (7/12)
For all they dystopian well-being stuff mentioned above, there is no mention of online harassment and doxing. Maybe having people from marginalized groups as designers and leaders can help you recognize how platforms can be weaponized? (8/12)
Many of the people interviewed also frame their contribution as “oh we thought we were building a technology to spread good in the world.” There is so much great critical work on why that framing is very problematic. Here’s the classic on this:… (9/12)
You cannot underplay your role in building something run by capitalistic logic by relying on this naïve technological determinism trope just because you say you’ve now seen the light. (10/12)
There are so many other things that I don’t have the energy to write about. For instance, there is a whole section on Google’s search algorithm but no mention of @safiyanoble 's work. So much on FB, nothing from @sivavaid. (11/12)
I appreciate their effort in alerting people about data privacy issues. But they also propagate certain harmful narratives that will be reinforced because a lot of people will see this. Fin. (12/12)

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