Health & Wellness Insights Tech

The Social Dilemma: The Psychology of Likes & What Makes Us Addicted?

September 16, 2020

Words by Cassie Hoepner

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” – Edward Tufte

Social media is a large part of everyday life, it connects us, informs us and entertains us. In a world that is busier and more time poor than ever why do we devote so much of our time to social media?

When we think of social media, we would consider ourselves to be the customers of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. because we use their product. The Netflix documentary,

The Social Dilemma, reveals that in reality we are the product that social media companies sell to advertisers.  Social media platforms sell their users with the guarantee that advertisements can alter our behaviour or perception for profit. 

What we see on these platforms is predicted by a model to ensure the biggest profit for advertisers and our continued and increasing engagement on the platform.  

According to a new study by Harvard University,  “self-disclosure on social networkingsites lights up the same part of the brain that also lights up when taking an addictive substance”.

The amount of time we spend on social media and the addiction element is by-design. The more time we spend on these platforms the more information about us can be collected and the more money that can be made.


This documentary follows a number of ex-employees of tech giants such as Google and Facebook, researchers and investors (mostly men) to uncover the dark underside of social media and the level of manipulation we are exposed to on a daily basis. The tech industry itself, has allowed a very small number of mainly white men, to control how two billion people view the world and the information they are exposed to via social media.

The documentary exposes us to the thinking of social media platforms behind the scenes and the places this technology can be taken to if left unchecked.

Despite its negative view of social media, the documentary instils in the viewer that with the right changes social media can be a force for connection rather than manipulation.  

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