However, if you find yourself spending an average of three hours a day on TikTok (like I was during the summer months), then you, too, are victim to these powerful algorithms, which are based on advanced technological capabilities and basic human psychology.
As someone who uses social media every day for work, here are the methods I use to control my screen time:
- Recognize the problem. What do you gain from using your phone? Is it helpful, or is it a time sink?
- Notifications — turn them off. Or at least turn off the notifications for the apps you don’t need constant updates from. A notification is like a dopamine hit, which is what controls our sense of reward — and they know this. That’s why you get them when your friend joins Instagram or likes something on Twitter.
- Delete your apps. Remove apps you just don’t need to have in your pocket. This can be true for what I call guilty pleasure apps, like Words With Friends, or even more practical apps, like Twitter.
- Set limits. Use your phone’s native screen time settings to give you reminders when you’ve been using certain apps for a long time.
- Physical separation. Literally leave the phone somewhere out of reach. If you are working at your desk, put it across the room. If you are meeting with a friend, leave it in your bag. Make sure it isn’t easily accessible.
- Understand the game. Social media is like a game, only with real world consequences. Don’t let yourself be swayed by who’s liked your post or how many followers you have. It is not a reflection of who you are.
My final tip is to recognize something this documentary barely touches on: social media can be really good.
When people don’t feel seen by major news networks, they turn to social media to share their stories, such as the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, which began in 2013 and reignited this summer amid a strengthened national call for racial justice.
When governments take oppressive actions against their citizens, word spreads on social media, such as during the summer of 2019, when the Sudanese government blocked the nation’s internet access.
When school curricula are lacking, queer youth turn to social media to connect with others and learn the necessary sexual health education often excluded from their classes.
When a pandemic hits, the world turns to social media to get that thing we all desperately need: to stay connected with the ones we love.
Social media is neither good nor bad. It just is. How we use it is what matters. The major concern of the documentary is how it’s being used for bad — bad actors are taking advantage of social media to sow discord. This is done by creating echo chambers: social media algorithms are created to keep you engaged. They know what you will like. This becomes a problem when it comes to the news.
In some instances, our news has become partisan. We lack an understanding of universal truth, which makes us susceptible to targeted disinformation campaigns. To combat this, I suggest you tune into your local news station, read your local newspaper and don’t believe everything you see from unverifiable sources on the internet.
@dthopinion | firstname.lastname@example.org