Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Social Dilemma

A Reel Leadership Article

The Social Dilemma is a Netflix original documentary. It’s a startling tell-all expose on the dangers of social media. It’s eye-opening and a documentary everyone should watch.

I sat in stunned silence as I watched the documentary roll in front of my eyes. It made me sad, mad, angry, and reflective. I have some things to think about with my social media usage from now on.

You will too, once you watch The Social Dilemma.

Scene from The Social Dilemma documentary. Ben surrounded by social media imagery

The Social Dilemma features the tales of the people who worked to create facets of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Their stories are scary. They reinforce the idea that we’re being led down a path we don’t want to go.

These social media mavens are:

  • Tristan Harris – Google, Former Design Ethicist / Center for Humane Society, Co-Founder
  • Jeff Seibert – Twitter, Former Executive / Serial Tech Entrepreneur
  • Bailey Richardson – Instagram, Early Team
  • Joe Toscano – Google, Former Experience Design Consultant / Author – Automating Humanity
  • Sandy Parakilas – Facebook, Former Operations Manager / Uber, Former Product Manager
  • Guillaume Chaslot – YouTube, Former Engineer / IntuitiveAI, CEO / AlgoTransparency, Founder
  • Lynn Fox – Apple, Former Director of Corporate PR / Google, Former Corporate Communications
  • Aza Raskin – Firefox & Mozilla Labs, Former Employee / Center for Humane Technology, Co-Founder / Inventor, Infinite Scroll
  • Alex Roetter – Twitter, Former Senior VP of Engineering
  • Tim Kendall – Facebook, Former Executive / Pinterest, Former President / Moment, CEO
  • Justin Rosenstein – Facebook, Former Engineer / Google, Former Engineer / Asana, Co-Founder
  • Randy Fernando – NVIDIA, Former Product Manager / Mindful Schools, Former Executive Director / Center for Humane Society, Co-Founder
  • Jaron Lanier – Founding Father of Virtual Reality / Computer Scientist
  • Roger McNamee – Facebook, Early Investor / Venture Capitalist
  • Shoshana Zuboff – Harvard Business School, Professor Emeritus / Author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

On top of hearing from these social media experts and ex-pats, there’s a story about a family that is negatively impacted through social media. It’s a story that’s all too familiar.

The Social Dilemma will make you rethink social media. It may also make you rethink the way you lead.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Social Dilemma

1. Good things can become bad things:

There are so many good things social media has done for the world. The experts featured in The Social Dilemma do not deny this. They share some of the good stories.

There are stories of families reunited. How people have found organ donors. And so much more.

These are good things… Then there are the bad things that have happened on social media.

The dark side of Snapchat and the dysphoria caused by this social media channel. Lynch mobs have been formed. And fake news has propagated social media.

While there are a lot of good things coming from social media, there are an equal, if not more, number of bad things coming from social media.

Think about your organization. There have been some amazing advancements. You may have found a cure to an illness. Lives may have been saved through a technological breakthrough in the automotive industry. Or you might help 100s of families thrive.

Now… think about what else may have happened. The cure to the illness your organization discovered may have unleashed some nasty side effects. The lifesaving breakthrough may have come at the cost of another safety feature.

We have to be cautious of what we’re doing. We have to make sure the good outweighs the bad.

2. Defining the problem can be difficult:

When asked what was wrong with social media, all of the interviewees stumbled over their answers. They didn’t have a clear cut answer. Still, they knew something was wrong.

They’d seen the dark side of social media. They worked in it. They created it. Still, they couldn’t define the actual problem.

We’ve all been there. We see a problem in our organization or business model. It’s there, right in front of us. But defining the problem, that’s the tough part.

Don’t give up on looking for a solution even if you can’t clearly define the problem. Knowing the problem is there is half the battle. You can always learn more and begin to clearly define the problem.

3. Tristan Harris:

We have a moral responsibility, as Google, for solving this problem.

Tristan worked for Google. He was a key part in creating some of the problems within the organization. He knew there was something that needed to be done.

Google had a small group of designers. These 50 designers had a heavy amount of influence over 200 million people.

Their work was to design methods to get people addicted to the various social media platforms. Notifications, alerts, sounds… All of these were designed to keep people addicted to their screens.

He believed there’s a moral responsibility for solving the problem of this addiction.

Guys! If we create a problem, we have a moral responsibility to help solve the problem.

Don’t brush the problems your organization has created under the rug. Instead, look for solutions. Look for ways to make things better. Even if it costs you.

4. Leaders will disagree:

Two of the social media experts disagreed over their ideas. Justin Rosenstein believed people had become the product. Jaron Lanier believed behavior change was the product of social media.

Both of them were smart. They knew what was happening in the industry. They both came to a different conclusion.

There was disagreement.

Have you faced a disagreement in your organization? Who are we kidding, of course you have! We have all experienced disagreements.

Disagreements are okay. Different people will see situations differently. They will come to conclusions others won’t. You will too.

Learning to work through those disagreements… that’s the key to great leadership.

5. What something is designed for isn’t what it is always used for:

Social media, by and large, was created to connect people. They’ve done a great job of appearing to do so.

Facebook is filled with friends. Instagram is filled with followers. LinkedIn is full of business contacts.

But… are you 5,000 Facebook friends really your friends? Probably not. Do most of your Instagram followers actually follow you? Nah… Do you really have business contacts on LinkedIn? Maybe. Maybe not.

We may set out to design a product for a specific purpose only to discover the people we designed it for are not using it as intended. Or we may discover a hidden feature that benefits us and we use it as a tool it wasn’t originally intended to be used as.

We have to be careful that we don’t abuse what we create. If we constantly try to abuse what we’ve created, we’re going to be viewed as the bad guy.

6. Your mind is vulnerable:

Algorithms rule social media. There are artificial intelligence working hard in the background trying to figure out how to manipulate your mind.

Magicians have discovered this. Con artists know how to tap into the vulnerable portions of your mind. And so have business schools.

They know if they can tap into your mind, they can get you hook, line, and sinker.

Guard your mind. The Bible talks about this in Romans 12:2. This piece of scripture tells us to renew our minds.

Are you renewing your mind? Are you guarding it and filling it with the right things? I hope you are.

7. We are pulled away from what matters:

Tim Kendall shared a vulnerable story about his addiction to his phone and social media. He discovered he was being pulled away from his kids and family. The story he shared may be all too familiar.

One day, he found himself in his pantry. He had to get his dopamine hit of social media. To do this, he had to get away from his family and hide.

There are things pulling us away from the things that matter. These things may be your family, friends, or other loved ones.

Know there are forces out there looking to take you away from the ones you love. Fight back against it.

8. Cassandra (Kara Hayward):

We don’t need our phones to eat dinner.

Cassandra’s mom had taken away the family’s phones. She placed them in a Kitchen Safe. The Kitchen Safe was a device that has a timer on it and wouldn’t release the contents of it until the timer went off. She believed this would keep her family from being on their phones.

She was wrong. Her other daughter was so addicted to her phone that she broke the Kitchen Safe and removed the phone.

This is when Cassandra spoke up. She knew they didn’t need their phones at the dinner table.

You don’t need your phone at the dinner table either. The dinner table is a time to eat, spend time with family, and recharge. Put those phones away.

There’s no one from work important enough to disturb the time around the table. Put your phone on silent. Enjoy your meals in peace.

9. Boredom is okay:

One of the experts talked about cell phones and what they’ve become. Cell phones have become digital pacifiers.

Anytime you are bored, you pull out your phone and you have instant access to gratification. Whether it’s a game of Candy Crush, a rush from the latest comments on Facebook, or some other social media platform, we don’t have the time to be bored. We’re made to think boredom is bad.

Boredom isn’t bad. Boredom is a good thing.

When you’re bored, you’re able to think about important things. You can calm your mind and fix yourself on the Bible. You can choose to think about a business problem. Or you can choose to spend time outside.

Don’t let the lie that boredom is bad become truth in your life. Learn to be bored.

10. Roger McNamee:

Everyone in your newsfeed sounds just like you.

Roger knows what Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms are doing. They’re creating an echo chamber of people who sound exactly like you.

This is to manipulate you into staying on the platform and to make you believe you’re not alone in the way you think.

You’re not alone. This doesn’t mean everyone thinks the same way as you.

Don’t let social media make you believe everyone thinks just like you. They don’t.

Not in your organization, family, or church. And that’s okay.

11. There’s still hope:

Despite the depressing tone of The Social Dilemma, the documentary ends on a high note. All of the social media experts share their hopes and aspirations for social media.

They all believe social media can be a force of good. You can do well on there.

Even when all hope seems gone, there’s still hope. Don’t give up on your business or organization. There’s still hope.

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