Recently, Netflix shocked the world with the release of its latest documentary on technology and social networks, The Social Dilemma. It features a number of former employees of the biggest technology giants such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc., and warns against the dangers that have arisen with the technological development. It is hard to pinpoint or define the problem, and even though the documentary is made in an attention-grabbing and fear-inducing way, it presents an ugly truth. Many people, especially the youth, have become addicted to social networks, and for most of us, it is difficult to imagine a life without a smartphone.
The latest trend among social networks is TikTok, which is a platform designed for short funny videos – from dances to certain songs that quickly became famous to lip synch. Soon, the Internet got flooded with comments about how people on TikTok look gorgeous and are literally perfect. Of course, TikTok has a million different filters available that “beautify” people in one way or another, similar to what we have already seen on Instagram and Snapchat. Beauty filter is especially popular, as it ensures a flawless appearance and removes any imperfections. But one of the things new on or at least popularised by TikTok, which has quickly spread to other social networks, is the beauty filters that alters one’s facial bone structure to make it look more “perfect” and “beautiful”. In other words, it alters people’s appearances in ways make-up cannot and only plastic surgeries can.
In the documentary, a term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” is introduced, which denotes a trend among young people wanting to look like look like they do on beauty filters on Snapchat, and undergo plastic surgeries to achieve the effect. Snapchat dysmorphia is accompanied by increasing social anxiety and depression, especially among the youth. Nowadays, it is difficult to make actual contact with people. Phone addiction has become a real problem as well as manipulation that can happen through social networks. Although photoshopped ideals and the pursuit of perfection are issues that our society has been facing for a long time, they did not portray to people a more “perfect” version of themselves – only of others. They did not show how they could look, how their look could be improved. This is something new that social networks managed to achieve with their filters and accessibility of online content.
I am not against technology and I in no way agree with parents who read their children’s messages and monitor their every move online. Tighter and constant surveillance is not the answer, especially if the parents themselves spend hours on their electronic devices and are caught in the same vicious cycle of social networks. It should be borne in mind that social networks have made it easier for us to talk to friends (especially if they live in other countries), they are fun and contribute to advertising and strategy of many companies, especially smaller one attempting to penetrate the market. Social networks have their advantages, but it is crucial to learn about their disadvantages and actually act on it. More and more young people are taking their own lives and more and more are dissatisfied with how they look. Nowadays, enormous social pressure is being exerted on everyone, especially the youth, and this must be dealt with for the wellbeing of everyone and not swept under the carpet.
We live in the 21st century, which certainly has many advantages and brings us a certain comfort that we are used to – but it also comes at a price. It is time to stop turning a blind eye and face the consequences of the exponential development of technology, and by that I do not mean crazy parental control over what children do online, under the pretext of protection. I am talking about actual public discourse and shattering of the illusion of what people should look like, more pressure on technology giants about privacy settings, internet education and, above all, self-satisfaction – no matter how clichéd it sounds.