Soup & Substance: a Social Dilemma

Danielle CampbellCopy Editor

Have you ever felt as if social media has a hold on you and you do not know how or why?  

The Social Dilemma is a documentary on Netflix which talks about how the technology of today has a hold on people, especially the youth. The documentary goes into detail about how various social media was created to be addictive. Some of those creators speak in detail about what their intentions were when making these networks and how it has backfired, in their opinion.  

The last of the Soup and Substance series featured Brandon Hutchinson, who was recently honored at the Faculty Celebration of Excellence with the 2021 J. Philip Smith Faculty Teaching Award. She is the first Black woman to receive the award.  

Hutchinson is an associate professor of English, a co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and a member of the Racial and Intersectional Justice Group. She was the professor who moderated the discussion about the movie, which she chose to speak on.  

She asked students about the mention of “the trading in human futures” and what the implication of their futures being traded means.  

“I felt really vulnerable. This is the first time I became aware of the new ways in which my phone affects my engagement. The intent behind how these companies in the AI force engagement because once I refresh that page, and I go down the rabbit hole, then I’m logging in that time, so that was really eye-opening,” said Jonah Craggett, university assistant in the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

The conversation revolved mostly around how different technology has become and how much students did not realize how reliant they were on their phones. It also touched on how much misinformation is spread these days and how this was done by design.  

“I was just thinking because the phones became so many things for you to do in one. It became your phone. It became your radio. It became your game and became your TV. It became everything, so you’re doing everything on your phone,” said business management major Shahiyda Plair, a sophomore. 

The room agreed this obsession with phones is hard to break when the phone has become so much of people’s daily ritual.  

  “I really liked the event because it exercised my brain and really made me think and evaluate my interaction with technology. It made me realize that I’m a guinea pig being tested [on] without even knowing. Even though you’re not necessarily in a lab when you’re with your phone, the algorithm is tailoring to the content that you love,” said computer science major Fatima Anderson, a freshman. “You really are in a different world. You’re in a box [where] you completely ignore everyone and everything around you. You’re just sucked in. You may realize this, but you completely ignore this fact as long as that dopamine is triggered and [there is] the curiosity of mystery in your notifications. That’s all that matters.” 

The event ended with suggestions on how to better manage the addiction to phones and social media specifically. 

“I always make sure to be aware that I’m using it because I don’t like having useless apps on my phone on purpose. And when I noticed that I’m being sucked inside the marketing thing, I use tools [to help me] or just stop using it for a while. And if they try pulling back, I put the notification on silent,” said interdisciplinary studies major Sakinah Plair, a junior. 

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