My reaction to the new must-watch Netflix documentary.
Netflix had our video blocked on YouTube initially for “copyright” since we used clips from the documentary, so while we are in the appeal phase (because we believe this is “fair use”) please share widely and ABSOLUTELY watch the original documentary!
[Dr. Z] Hey guys. A whole bunch of people have asked me to watch the “Social Dilemma”, a new documentary about social media and its ills on Netflix. So I’m a doctor, you’re an audience. Let’s watch it together.
– When you look around you, it feels like the world is going crazy. You have to ask yourself like, is this normal? Or have we all fallen under some kind of spell.
– So I’ve been an investor in technology for 35 years. The first 50 years of Silicon Valley, the industry made products, hardware, software. Sold them to customers. Nice simple business. For the last 10 years, the biggest companies of Silicon Valley had been in the business of selling their users.
– It’s a little even trying to say now, but because we don’t pay for the products that we use, advertisers pay for the products that we use, advertisers are the customers. We’re the thing being sold. The classic saying is, if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.
[Dr. Z] Let that sink in. If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product. Think about all the things online. Think about all the things online that are like that, including this show. The difference is even for our show, there are people who pay for it. And then there are people who are generating ad revenue for us. And believe me, the people who pay for it get a very different experience than you do.
– A lot of people think, Oh, Google’s just a search box. And Facebook’s just a place to see what my friends are doing and see their photos. But what they don’t realize is they’re competing for your attention. So Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. Companies like this their business model is to keep people engaged on the screen.
– Let’s figure out how to get as much of this person’s attention as we possibly can. How much time can we get you to spend? How much of your life can we get you to give to us?
[Dr. Z] When you think about how some of these companies work, it starts to make sense. There are all these services on the internet that we think of as free, but they’re not free. They’re paid for by advertisers. Why do advertisers pay those companies? They pay in exchange for showing their ads to us. We are the product. Our attention is the product being sold to advertisers.
– What I want people to know is that everything they’re doing online is being watched, is being tracked, is being measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. Exactly what images you stop and look at, for how long you look at it. Oh yes seriously, for how long you look at it.
– They know when people are lonely. They know when people are depressed. They know when people are looking at photos of your ex romantic partners, they know what you’re doing late at night. They know the entire thing. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, or what kind of neurosis you have, what your personality type is like.
[Dr. Z] Yuval Harari has described this as there will come a time and it may be now when the algorithms know more about you than you do, because humans are the masters of denial and self obfuscation. But these algorithms see clearly. They are tracking exactly what you’re looking at. They can know whether you’re gay before, you know, you’re gay. Things like that are truly, they’re amazing and terrifying at the same time. And again, these companies are dealing in attention. Attention is the currency that they deal in. And so even I, when I look at my statistics of my videos, when I look at how they’re being served out, how many one minute views? How many 30 second views? How much attention are they getting? How many minutes watched? That’s the currency that these companies find valuable? And as a creator, that’s the pressure is to produce that currency if you’re gonna survive in this. It doesn’t matter about the message. It doesn’t matter about your mission. It’s about the currency of attention.
– A lot of people have the misconception that it’s our data being sold. It’s not in Facebook’s business interest to give up the data. What do they do with that data? They build models that predict our actions and whoever has the best model wins.
[Dr. Z] Now understand this. This sounds terrifying and it is. But imagine this, if you build models that predict human behavior based on their past stuff, finding patterns and computers are really good at this, algorithms are really good at this. You could actually predict who is at high risk for suicide. Who’s at high risk for depression. Who’s at high risk for going postal on a place. And that’s actually interesting data. But then the question, the ethical question is how do you act? How do you provide an action associated with that data? Does Facebook reach out to people who they think are suicide risks? I don’t see that. How do you then actualize that? And if you have the capacity to save a life that way or save multiple lives from a person that’s ready to snap and you don’t do it. What does that tell you? I mean we’re only scratching the surface of the ethical conundrums that these algorithms are producing. And we were only like five, 10 years into this process. It’s crazy.
– I can predict what kind of videos will keep you watching. I can predict what kinds of emotions tend to trigger you.
[Dr. Z] For me, it’s anytime someone gets hit in the nuts with anything. That’s like ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. All my dopamine. Now, you know. And knowing is half the battle.
– When I was at the Stanford persuasive technology lab, this is what we learned. How could you use everything we know about the psychology. of what persuades people and build that into technology.
– Now, many of you in the audience are geniuses already. I think that’s true. But my goal is to turn you into a behavior change genius.
– There are many prominent Silicon Valley figures who went through that class, key growth figures at Facebook and Uber and other companies, and learned how to make technology more persuasive, Tristan being one.
– Persuasive technology is just sort of designed intentionally applied to the extreme where we really want to modify someone’s behavior. We want them to take this action. We want them to keep doing this with their finger.
– You pull down on your refresh. It’s gonna be a new thing at the top. Pull down refresh again it’s a new, every single time, Which in psychology, we call a positive intermittent reinforcement.
[Dr. Z] So you know a slot machine. It’s the same thing. You don’t give a reward every time you give it intermittently. Why do you think our devices require you to pull down and have there be a little delay and then you get a refresh, whether it’s email or social media or likes on Instagram, or whatever it is? The technology doesn’t need the delay. It can be instant. They put it in because of intermittent reinforcement. They want you hooked to that process. Think about that.
– You don’t know when you’re gonna get it. And you don’t know if you’re gonna get something which operates just like the slot machines in Vegas.
[Dr. Z] Exactly.
– It’s not enough to use the product consciously. I want to dig down deeper into the brain stem and then plant inside of you an unconscious habit so that you are being programmed at a deeper level. You don’t even realize it.
[Dr. Z] Listen to that carefully programmed at a deeper level, it is creating unconscious habit energy that is very difficult to unwind because it’s patterned, it’s programmed. So you have to actually use conscious energy, a lot of ATP to override it. But the natural default action is the behavior. These guys know exactly how to manipulate us.
– Every time you see it there on the counter and you just look at it and you know if you reach over it just might have something for you.
[Dr. Z] The whole time I’ve been recording this. I’ve been looking at this phone going, “Do I need to check email? Do I need to make sure I got that text? Do I need to fall?” This thing is an albatross and it’s all conditioning. It’s all like Pavlovian behavioral change.
– If something is a tool, it genuinely is just sitting there waiting patiently. If something is not a tool, it’s demanding things from you. It’s seducing you. It’s manipulating you. It wants things from you. And we’ve moved away from having a tools based technology environment, to an addiction and manipulation based technology environment. That’s what’s changed.
[Dr. Z] That’s the central thesis of this. We’ve gone from something passive that you use as a tool to something that uses you as a tool. Let that sink in. That’s the fundamental premise here.
– Armed with all the knowledge that I have and all of the experience, I am fighting my kids about the time that they spend on phones and on the computer, I will say to my son, “How many hours do you think you’re spending on your phone?” He’ll go, “It’s like half an hour. It’s half an hour tops.”
– I’d say upwards hour, hour, and a half.
– Okay, I looked at his screen and recent was like three hours and 45 minutes. Instagram six hours, 13 minutes. Okay so my Instagram’s worse.
[Dr. Z] That’s an expert in the field at Stanford who knows all the dangerous and our kids use it that much, right. This is a profound addiction that we have in our kids are the most susceptible Gen Z. The people born after 1997 are one of the most anxious, neurotic generations in history as far as since we’ve been measuring this stuff and yet they don’t go out much. They drink less, they have sex less. They do all this risky behavior less yet they’re more anxious, more depressed, more actively suicidal, why?
– It’s not just that it’s controlling where they spend their attention. Especially social media starts to dig deeper and deeper down to the brainstem and takeover kids’ sense of self worth and identity.
[Dr. Z] That is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And you see it in kids all the time. I just mentioned how anxious and depressed they are when their whole sense of self worth is based on what they see on the subtle screen and the likes and the responses and the dopamine hit they get back and the fear of missing out. It is heartbreaking. And we’re doing this to a generation that… Look millennials I used to love making fun of ’cause they’re just lazy, entitled pieces of crap. Gen Z you just feel bad for, we did this to them, right?
– We evolved to care about whether other people in our tribe think well of us or not because it matters. But where we evolved to be aware of what 10,000 people think of us, we were not evolved to have social approval being dosed to us every five minutes. That was not at all what we were able to experience.
[Dr. Z] What he said is key. We didn’t evolve for this. This is a hack in our evolution that our children, this generation is not what, they’re wired perfectly to be destroyed by this, these little doses of affirmation that we become addicted to. It used to be, you’d go out with your friends, you’d bully each other in person, and then you’d come home and you were safe. Now especially little girls can commit acts of relational aggression from miles away with no consequence that they feel.
– We curate our lives around this perceived-
[Dr. Z] Listen, I’m a dad of two young daughters. That’s probably why this affects me so emotionally because I am doing my best to create this environment where I warn my children about this stuff. And I don’t let them have social media. And yet they look at dad and go well, but he’s on social media all the time. And it seems his self worth is based on how many views a video gets and how many positive comments he gets and how many likes he gets. And that is the worst possible modeling for my own children. And I try to tell them, but then I’m not leading by example.
– This sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals, hearts, likes, thumbs up. And we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth. And instead, what it really is, is fake brittle popularity. That’s short term and that leaves you even more and admit it vacant and empty before you did it.
[Dr. Z] That guy nailed it. How much fulfillment have you gotten from, from this kind of interaction on social media? That’s not transient. The Buddhists have been saying this for 2000 plus years, that all grasping all is ends in suffering, ends in dissatisfaction, right. And yet now we’ve created a societal hack where we’ve institutionalized this kind of grasping. It’s the opposite of any kind of spiritual or personal progress that we could hope for. And we’ve, societalized it. We’ve codified it in the structure and the fabric of society in our next generation, Gen Z.
– Because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like, what’s the next thing I need to do now? ‘Cause I need it back.
[Dr. Z] It’s never enough. It’s never enough. Take it from me. Take it from me you guys. I started on this route in 2010. Never had social media, because I wanted to be ZDoggMD and reach people and influence people and live my story. Yada yada yada yada open YouTube, open Twitter, open Facebook, open Instagram, tried Snapchat, hated it. Tried TikTok hated it wished I could love it because it’s more clicks, more likes, more love, right? You grasp and you grasp and you grasp and you grasp and it’s empty. It’s never enough. You’re never satisfied. And when I realized through just straight introspection, meditation, stepping off that actually happiness is being here in the present moment with people you care about connecting, doing what you’re passionate about, creating, right? And that brings you absolute bliss, peace, happiness. This doesn’t. And yet the addiction, the unconscious programming is still there. Look in at yourself and see if this is happening to you. It’s not too late to fix it.
– Think about that compounded by 2 billion people. And then think about how people react then to the perceptions of others. It’s just a, it’s a really bad, it’s really, really bad. There has been a gigantic increase.
[Dr. Z] Oh my God they have John Haidt. This guy is my intellectual hero. We have done shows and shows on Haidt’s work. So listen carefully. I’m really curious what he’s gonna say.
– In depression and anxiety for American teenagers, which began right around between 2011 and 2013, the number of teenage girls out of a hundred thousand in this country who are admitted to a hospital every year because they cut themselves or otherwise harmed themselves. That number was pretty stable until around 2010, 2011. And then it begins going way up. It’s up 62% for older teen girls. It’s up 189% for the preteen girls. That’s nearly triple.
[Dr. Z] Look at those numbers.
– Even more horrifying. We see the same pattern with suicide. The older teen girls, 15 to 19 years old, they’re up 70% compared to the first decade of the century. The preteen girls who have very low rates to begin with, they are up 151%. And that pattern points to social media. Gen Z, the kids born after 1996 or so those kids are the first generation in history that got on social media in middle school.
[Dr. Z] That is every time I think we’ve reached the most important point in this video. It outdoes itself in what the most important point is, what John Haidt is saying. And he said this brilliantly in his book, the coddling of the American mind is that this generation, particularly of girls, and there’s many reasons for that. We’ve done videos on this is so susceptible to this and people think, “Wow, I don’t know.” Look at the numbers. Suicide rates going up. Self-harm going up, hospitalizations for mental illness going up. And you look at when it started. It’s when social media first becomes available. If you let your child under the age of 16, 18, have a social media account, you are playing with fire. I won’t do it for my own children.
– When you go to a page, you’re seeing the same thing as other people. So it’s one of the few things online that we at least hold in common. Now just imagine for a second that Wikipedia said, “We’re gonna give each person a different customized definition and we’re gonna be paid by people for that.” So Wikipedia would be spying on you. Wikipedia would calculate. What’s the thing I can do to get this person to change a little bit on behalf of some commercial interest, right? And then it would change the entry. Can you imagine that? Well, you should be able to ’cause that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook.
[Dr. Z] That is exactly what’s happening on Facebook. They’re looking at what your political interests are. Who your friends are. What kind of things you’re clicking on. And they’re feeding you information that further solidifies your echo chamber and your thought bubble. Then when someone says, “Hey, wait a minute, did you know this?” And you look at them like, they’re crazy. It’s because you didn’t know that because you’ve been stuck in one way of thinking that has been self-reinforcing. It’s the exact opposite of having proper discourse, proper education, openness to experience in different ideas. It’s the opposite. It’s a silo effication an outrage factory, a bubble effication and the end of the world, as we know it. And I’m not making a hyperbole here. How polarized has the COVID thing being? Do you remember people who are over 30? Do you remember a time when we were this polarized? No. Why? Social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I don’t care what it is. It divides us. And again, it’s the result of these algorithms that are paid to do this.
– More divided than ever with personal and political polarization at a 20 year high.
– You have more than a third of Republicans saying the Democratic party is a threat to the nation. More than a quarter of Democrats saying the same thing about the Republicans.
– So many of the problems that we’re discussing-
[Dr. Z] Listen to me right now. If you’re one of those people who posts on Facebook, like the Republicans are some kind of enemy threat or the Democrats or some kind of communist threat. You are part of the problem. And here’s the worst part. You have been manipulated into behaving that way because it’s for Facebook’s benefit. That polarization sells. You are being used as a tool of powers that don’t even understand themselves if you behave like that on Facebook. People try to post that kind of crap on discussion group, the private discussion group that I host for my supporters. And I delete it. I don’t let it through because now I finally been able to see it for what it is. I was guilty of it. I was manipulated too. And when I realized what was happening, I refuse to let it happen. I see people as good people across the board, trying their best and listen to their ideas. If we let ourselves behave like this. This polarization, we are playing into the hands of technological algorithms that have no humanity whatsoever and are designed for profit. Don’t do it. Don’t do it, seriously. Oh my God just give me a second here to rant. There are so many doctor friends I have that are on Twitter, on social media. And all they do is post political garbage all day. And you know what? They think they’re being good. They live in an echo chamber where they only get exposed to one idea. And when you sit and talk with them, they kind of go, “What I’ve never thought of it that way.” When you propose an opposing idea in a compassionate and connected way, they can’t believe it. This thing is screwing us you guys.
– Maybe the government is using the coronavirus as an excuse to get everyone to stay inside because something else is happening.
– Corona virus is not killing people, it’s the 5G radiation that they’re pumping out.
– We’re being bombarded with rumors. People are blowing up actual physical cell phone towers. We see Russia and China spreading rumors and conspiracy theories.
– [Announcer] This morning panic and protest in Ukraine.
– People have no idea what’s true. And now it’s a matter of life and death.
– From sources that are spreading coronavirus misinformation have amassed something like 52 million engagements.
– You’re saying that silver solution would be effective.
– Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this-
[Dr. Z] You know, when a pandemic with a fatality rate, if an infection fatality rate of 5% hits us, we’re all gonna die because of this. We’re set up for misinformation either. And you know what? It’s not just limited to hoax and conspiracy stuff. It’s also the mainstream media playing up the fear angle, playing up data and cherry picking data to show that we should all hide in fear in our homes. Okay? That’s not true either. So how do we find truth? We’re not exposed to all the ideas in a way that’s actually, it’s not a false equivalence. In other words, plandemic, doesn’t get the same air time as you know, people dying on ventilators in a hospital is really complicated because here we’ve been on a ride where I don’t know about you, but I am so terrified because we’ve been talking… On my show we’ve been talking about this for a long time. The polarization in the country, the misinformation and conspiracy theory promotion, the destruction of a generation of children through self harm, mental illness, fear of missing out, body image problems. Especially little girls. And the weaponification of grabbing our attention and addicting us to something that should be a tool that instead we are the slave to. Now, I don’t have the answers. These guys are saying, regulate them, change the profit incentive. These are the things. I’m not smart enough to give you those answers, but I am smart enough to say this. Look at yourself. Look at your own usage. Recognize when you’re being manipulated. It can be done. It just requires that one step of metacognition of self awareness. To watch it and go, “Ouch.” Instead of sharing that piece of crap, conspiracy theory, or that politically charged BS that I’ve been fooled into thinking is something that’s gonna help the world by sharing. I’m gonna stop. I’m gonna take a breath. And I’m going to think before I do it. About what I’ve seen About how we’re being manipulated and about how we might actually do better in the world through compassion and understanding and real human connection. Whether it’s on a phone call, which boy that seems analog as hell, doesn’t it? But man it works as opposed to email where you just don’t see eye to eye escalate, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh. Get on a call, it’s resolved. We need to get back to that analog human relationship that powers everything in human history and understand the dangers that we see right here. And that may mean me having to change how I get to you. Right? The people who subscribed to my show, they still have to use Facebook and they complain about it. Maybe there’s a better way to do it. Maybe we can talk somewhere else. Maybe we should have in-person meetups. I don’t know, but I’m willing to talk about it and listen, because this and this is a really well done documentary. I think you should share the link to it, right. Share this video. Maybe do it in analog. Tell somebody about it. Tell them why. Instead of just sharing another link. And maybe if you share the link, say, “Hey, this is not about politics. This is not about division. This is about coming together, helping our children and helping our society heal.” Alright guys, I love you. And we are out.
– We can demand that these products be designed humanely. We can demand to not be treated as an extractable resource. The intention could be, how do we make the world better?
– Throughout history every single time something’s gotten better. It’s because somebody has come along to say, “This is stupid. We can do better.” Like it’s the critics that drive improvement. It’s the critics who are the true optimists.