The Next Generation
December 4, 2021
There are many benefits in the way algorithms are structured. Today, we have unfiltered access to the world, and this globalization has brought opportunities to people of all backgrounds.
However, a significant consideration for the future is the effect of this platform on youth. A set narrative can impact many young people’s perspectives in the defining years of their lives. MSI algorithms encourage the spread of polarized content. One case study represents this phenomenon clearly: religious extremism in India. According to Facebook’s researchers, hate speech increased significantly during the nation’s riots. Young people are often manipulated into choosing specific sides in a moral battle of identity and humanity.
Furthermore, individuals are increasingly exposed to unrealistic expectations. We watch videos of perfect people living perfect lives. As a teenage girl, I scroll through Instagram and Facebook encountering those who are skinnier, smarter, and more successful than me. Ali Abdaal seems to work for 40 hours within a 24-hour period, Ruby Granger studies for 14 hours a day, @urmomashley has an entire mall in her closet, and “that girl” is embodied across multiple accounts. The term “that girl” refers to an aesthetic trend that encourages the perfect lifestyle: someone who has everything together, works out, eats healthy, is productive, and is effortlessly beautiful.
“Social media spreads a certain body type and even if body positivity is spreading, that doesn’t mean people don’t edit their pictures to make them look skinny or flawless, which alters my perspective of what is ‘attractive,'” says South student Elisabeth Moreau.
As these trends become more popular among its young niche, the algorithms work to promote it and influencers are incentivized to latch on to this type of content.
As a result of these social repercussions, a niche within the nonprofit tech sector emerged: digital wellbeing. This specific movement works to better the relationship between individuals and technology, emphasizing mental health. LookUp, a nonprofit within the digital wellness field, recently held the Youth 4 Youth iSummit, bringing together hundreds of speakers and participants to engage in this conversation about the future of social media. One specific seminar was “Live Focus Group: Gen Z Responds To Facebook Hearings – Demands More From Big Socials.” This session was led by moderator Rishi Bharwani, Director of Partnerships and Policy at Accountable Tech.
To preface the discussion, Senator Markey of Massachusetts was passionate in voicing his opinion: “We introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) act. My legislation… limits advertising and commercial content like product placement, [and] prohibits amplification of harmful and violent content to children.”
Vinaya called for greater protections for younger individuals on social media:
“I feel like there should be a lot more regulation on those apps that are harming the younger generation because they can’t advocate for themselves like we are advocating for ourselves right now.” pic.twitter.com/PFeLbCFshZ
— Accountable Tech (@accountabletech) October 15, 2021