Several of Hunter’s friends received phones for Christmas this year. He was totally happy and content with everything he received, but when he learned of his friends new phones, he was left feeling a little jealous.

One evening after hanging out with friends, Hunter was asking us when he would be able to get a phone. We knew this conversation was coming. And lucky for us, we had already had this a few times with Hallie so we were comfortable with the topic. He was tearful expressing his desire to be able to connect with his friends in this new environment that so many found themselves in recently. He wanted to fit it in. Be on the group threads. Get the invites.

We shared our concerns with his age and the inability to manage such a powerful device, despite how mature he is and how much we trust him. Our reasoning didn’t do much to pacify him. It was an important conversation and he agreed to watch the Social Dilemma with us (it had been recommended to us so many times!) We had been wanting to watch it with Hallie and it was obviously a good time for Hunter to join us.

If you haven’t watched it, I would recommend it. I don’t think technology is going to be our destruction (in fact quite the opposite), but I do know it’s powerful and should be used with deliberate judgement. There were several moments while I was watching when a lightbulb went off in my head with ideas I hadn’t even considered. I’m fully aware that news feeds are algorithms based on user experience/likes – but it becomes concerning when you realize how easily it can be manipulated. And if I’m worried about how easily I can be affected by this – worry about my kids managing this skyrockets.

Hallie doesn’t have social media, but we follow several of her friends on my account. When someone posts a picture and she gets so many likes and 200 comments of people saying the same thing: “UR Perfect!” “GORGEOUS!” “So jealous of you.” “I wish I could be you.” Over and over again. You better believe that girl is going to wonder why in the world her next picture doesn’t get the same amount of praise and its going to eat her alive. It’s sad. And concerning.

Although there were so many great messages throughout, I didn’t love a key takeaway at the end. (and perhaps it was just my take away and how I interpreted it) But I felt as though as they were wrapping up the show, they talked about the need for government regulation – that’s how we have to combat this.

And to some extent, there may be truth to that. But I don’t love the idea of portraying us as victims. We willingly use these “free” services. We can also willingly reject these services as well. We are not being forced to use them and I know plenty of people that live happy and fulfilling lives without them. But it is an active decision. We need to be more deliberate users – and I’m speaking for myself. I need to be more deliberate. I often pull out my phone and scroll and after I’ve scrolled several pages, I’ve forgotten why I sat down and picked up my phone. Its habit. But it’s not out of my control. I can reclaim my time.

We need to take more ownership.

Hunter wasn’t quite so quick to demand a phone after watching. Sure, he had some arguments as to why he wouldn’t be affected the same way, but it was eye opening to him as well and some of the concerns the show pointed out, he’s already seeing in friends. For me, I recognized areas that need some work and areas where I struggle to find balance between my technology life and my real life. This will be on on-going conversation

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Here are just a few interesting quotes from the movie:

“If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.”

“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or lonely or uncertain or afraid we have a digital pacifier for ourselves that is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.” — Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre for Humane Technologies

“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. We’ve moved away from a tools based technology environment, to an addiction and manipulation used technology environment. Social media isn’t a tool waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you.” – Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre for Humane Technologies

“The way to think about it is as 2.5 billion Truman Shows. Each person has their own reality with their own facts. Over time you have the false sense that everyone agrees with you because everyone in your news feed sounds just like you. Once you’re in that state, it turns out you’re easily manipulated.” – Roger McNamee, Early investor venture capitalist in Facebook

“I’ve uninstalled a ton of apps from my phone that I felt were wasting my time. All the social media apps, all the news apps and I’ve turned off notifications on anything that was vibrating my leg with information that wasn’t timely and important to me right now. It’s for the same reason that I don’t keep cookies in my pocket.” – Justin Rosenstein, former engineer at Facebook and Google, co-fonder of Asana