The Social Dilemma & Why You Should Look at Your Social Media Use.

The Social Dilemma is a documentary from Netflix that explores the damage of social media within our culture. Driven by the work of Tristan Harris, it brings together former creators of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google for a scary examination of what their work has created.

The documentary itself is very interesting, but there is nothing flash about it. It’s very up front and on the nose with what it is trying to tell you. There is a dramatic story to help illustrate it’s message, but it wasn’t needed.

What it does do well is get you to think about how you use media, or how you think you ‘use’ it. The scariest part of the documentary is how they explain that what was once a conscious choice to take in what our friends and family are doing is now a trap that actually decides for you.

The driving forces behind growth, engagement and monetisation all talk about how they built machines to predict our behaviour to deliver content in the ‘smartest‘ way. Put simply they would show is what we needed to stay looking at their page. This in turn keeps us engaged and drives in revenue through advertisements.

The fact that this is so close to Westworld season 3 doesn’t bode well, is you’re suspicious at all.

Why Should You Consider Your Usage?

What I couldn’t help but agree with when watching this documentary is that everything they said throughout, I was nodding along to. Do I check my phone before anything when I wake up? Yes. Do I scroll endlessly and refresh my feeds? Yes. Have I been caught in a rabbit hole on Youtube? Yes.

Do I also notice how easily social media can influence our culture and society? Absolutely, and in truth it’s scary. Fake news is liable to travel 6 times quicker than the genuine story. Through social medias fanning of the flames we eat up any dramatic story but don’t question it’s source.

Have you ever read something, that sounds ridiculous and not even questioned it, maybe even shared it? Once we are aware of this, people with money and influence are able to use this, almost weaponize it for gain.

Radical ideas and groups are able to grow exponentially through social media’s precise predicting and targeting. An algorithm doesn’t choose between radical ideas and wholesome content. Their systems are designed to learn everything about you. How you go about your usage on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter and more is your true identity.

Feed this into a computer that is able to calculate billions of formula before you can blink and the result is that you’ll only ever come across content that you don’t realise you’re looking for.

If you use google in a different location, the results will change to suit the current culture. This works with extremely serious matters such as elections. If you go to place that votes in a certain way, you’ll see content to help make you see the same way as everyone else in your area, without knowing, social media is assuming the role of a Shepard.

There’s a much, much darker side.

Not only is social media feeding you content based on your behaviour and their needs to make billions in revenue, it’s becoming a leading cause in mental health issues.

The very nature of my Instagram, this blog, my Twitter is designed to drive in likes and engagement. I’d love to have more engagement than the 10 I got on Wednesday. Fortunately for me, I can brush this off. Every time I write I’m learning more, every post is out there but I’m used to it drifting off into an ocean without any fish to bite on it.

So for me, I wouldn’t say the impacts of social media are detrimental, it only reinforced what I already know, I’m never really part of a conversation, I’m just outside of it.

Unfortunately for millions more, that ‘like’ button is worth much, much more to them. In fact, it’s more or less what will dictate their behaviour and mental wellbeing. For those that are born from 1996 onwards are most likely impacted. That means that about now the majority of them are starting to shape our society by taking those roles in finance, politics, IT, the Army, science, health and way more.

What we have done to them is make them so anxious that their life is judged by likes and positive reinforcement that where it is not supplied they are being unbalanced and they struggle to find any self worth. They aren’t able to use their brilliant minds to help make a difference in society. Their kind souls aren’t making friends and helping the lives around them. Instead they’re jumping off bridges, cutting their wrists because a stranger from Taiwan called them ugly on their phone.

The rate of suicide has increased by over 150% in some age groups from as little as 11 years old. Growing up with depression and anxiety wasn’t common with my friends, family or anyone I came into contact with.

Since then we have put in time and effort to not only understand it more but we’ve seen it spread everywhere, it’s about the same rate as social medias growth, and the coincidence is there for everyone to see.

Black Mirror have done an episode that is essentially this take on society. ‘Nosedive’ is the one to check out, it’s pretty good objectively.

I’ve been at my place of work and seen people post pictures then delete them because there’s not enough interaction and then seen attempts 2 and 3 at different times later in the day, until they have satisfied their own need for attention.

This is just one, simple way that Instagram, for example, is able to dictate someones behaviour, mood and emotions. It’s in their power to reach out to as many people to dictate how many will like the content.

What the likes does is also double edged. The user (the only other industry to call its customers users) needs a number of likes to satisfy themselves. But by doing that they’re also putting it out there as a sort of bench mark that damages others. That like number is a weapon that you don’t realise you’re firing.

What Can You Do?

Switch off. It sounds so simple but we’re triggered by the same chemicals we are with any other form of addiction. The best thing you can do is limit your usage. Whether that’s to time of the day or a set amount of hours.

Question your content. Have you found the source of what you’re taking in. Is it credible and is it true? A quick search through various other places will soon point you in the right direction.

Does it matter to you? What we often find is we follow a bunch of people/ accounts that mean nothing to us but we don’t get rid of it. This is where more of that targeted posts are coming from. Filter through what you’re choosing to take in so you can take in less of what you don’t choose.

Consider your privacy. The default options for privacy are usually pretty open so that they can be used openly by the developers. Does this suit you, make sure you lockdown how much you share.

Only post positively. There’s nothing to be gained by ‘shitposting’ anywhere. Putting someone down will not lift you up. It’s never worked that way and it doesn’t on social media. it doesn’t matter if it’s someone with 10 followers or a celebrity with millions, everyone reads it.

As social media has grown, we’ve let it take over and filter into every aspect of our lives. Without realising it knows more about us than anyone, or anything possibly could do in the same amount of time.

Being conscious of your time on social media can make a massive difference. Being positive and making sure the content you take in is the content you wanted and not rabbits on skateboards at 3am.

Be mindful of those around you and check in on them. You don’t know how their recent post could have impacted them. Support your friends that believe likes are more important than air. Make sure you’re in control of your own media because it has the power to do so much greatness.

All the facts and figures in the post come from The Social Dilemma documentary and their website

Renting while saving, is it sensible?

Normally in your twenties you will go in one of two directions when it comes to buying a house. You either stay home with your parents and save as much as possible and buy around early to mid twenties or you move out and rent.

The first will be celebrated as a fate equal to the generations before us. Despite the stories that circulate of Jack and Jill eating grass for a year to buy their £300,000 house, it’s normally backed with a massive gift from their folks to have enough of a deposit.

If I sound salty or jealous it’s partly because I am, however it’s more because these aren’t a representation of the struggle most of us face when buying a house.

I’m ending my long 6 year relationship with renting this weekend. It just hasn’t worked out, I’ve made some mistakes but its just taking too much from me, is what I would say but I’ve actually enjoyed my experience.

Why is Renting a Struggle?

When you save for a house it’s all about sacrifice. You forgive things like holidays, eating out and possibly more. When renting a lot of people have to give these up just to afford a normal lifestyle. Rent can range anywhere from low hundreds to thousands and the return is tiny.

I’ve always led with the idea that we shouldn’t need to have your life compromised when trying to save for a house. Part of life is having a balance, we should be able to enjoy the good and the sacrifice in equal measure otherwise it’ll drive you crazy. This is even more so when renting as you already give a large portion away for rent and you’ll likely be saving for much longer.

I’m saying this from a household with two incomes and having the privilege to be able to have a balance, moreover I’m led to feel guilty for taking a balanced lifestyle and not everyone is able to.

Renting is often thought of in the long term, i.e. ‘you’ll have nothing to show’ at the end, which is true but we need to change that to a short term ‘I’m independent and planning my future’

This brings me back to them Jack and Jill articles or that our past generations had it easier with much cheaper house prices that renters are constantly compared to. Even when renting there is still an expectation to be saving and matching those that had a lot given to them, bought houses at MUCH cheaper prices or have the ability to live comfortably at home.

I have been part of those conversations and spoke to people in a similar position and it’s almost as if renting has a stigma. Your choice to rent and have an independent life doesn’t fit in to the generic house buying formula so it must be wrong.

Combine that with the insecurity you could be asked to move out at any time, the restrictions of personalising your rented property and how expensive it is to start renting and it’s an accomplishment if you do rent.

So How can You be the Exception?

Me and my fiancé have made mistakes since renting, we haven’t always used money wisely but I have no regrets. For a couple in our twenties we have enjoyed holidays to Disney, weekend breaks and buying the things we love.

We’re taking a step back to try and undo those mistakes and finally get our first home. So much so that we’re going to stop renting. This is purely to speed up the process to buy our first home, we could carry on renting and buy a home many years later.

Looking back I would say that I wouldn’t have taken any credit cards out since I started renting. I would have also gone straight into some sort of shared renting situation to reduce the overall costs.

The debate of needing some form of credit card or overdraft to boost your credit score will go both ways but there’s more to that and that’s for another day.

I was fussy and didn’t end up sharing and started immediately paying over £650 a month + service charge for my independence. It was a nice place I rented and real close to my work, but it was tiny. Sharing a place would have given me the same amount of space but a fortune in savings on monthly bills.

Next I would have learnt more about money. I work for a bank now and knowing what I know now it’s night and day in terms of how I approach finances. I’ll do a myth busting article next but the gist is to be careful when and where you borrow (some will be mandatory for a mortgage).

Photo by maitree rimthong on

I guess the answer to your question is to be the exception you need to get to the end goal quickly. The longer you rent the harder it is to stop renting and finally buy. You’ll rely on something like a big step in your career or an injection of funds.

Split your costs and reduce your outgoings, its simple to say but hard in practice. As you come to learn about your lifestyle and what costs you need to facilitate it you might realise that the sacrifice is too much and decide renting is your future, and that’s okay!

You also need to enjoy your time and not resent those years you spent renting and saving and thinking how bad it all was. For a lot of people that’s their twenties and thirties, remember to enjoy them the best you can.

The way our country is going it’s likely the moving out age will only increase and renting will be more popular. We need to have a positive outlook on it and understand how we can use it as part of our young adult life.