Guest writer Isobel Lampard speaks out about issues with social media - and how she reduced her reliance on apps:

The Social Dilemma – a Netflix original documentary that explores the dangerous impact of social media and how we are being manipulated by algorithms that we created ourselves.

I was first introduced to the documentary by a family friend, who had told me that it made them want to “lock away” all of her devices.

Consequently, I was intrigued to see why this documentary had such a powerful impact on her and her emotions that she had associated with technology.

I decided I had to watch it. The documentary portrays multiple tech experts - who formerly worked for companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google - explaining what they witnessed while they worked there and the effects the algorithms, that they had created, have had on the world.

After watching this documentary, my eyes had been opened to topics that I am exposed to everyday, such as fake news.

We are all aware of fake news, however we tend to get lost in deciphering whether what we read is fake or not. According to the documentary, fake news travels six times faster on twitter than real news.

How can we tell the difference between the two? And why do we tend to believe fake news so easily?

This leads to the most terrifying part of this documentary, which is where they explain how the algorithms for our social media apps are using our data to control what we see and providing us with content that they know we will be unable to resist.

Algorithms also use information such as our search history and our location to determine our possible opinions on certain topics. They use this information to drag us down a rabbit hole of content that feeds our possible opinion, which holds the power to influence and change our original opinions.

This indicates to why, as a society, we’ve become so impressionable and easily influenced. Algorithms may have been created by us, but now it seems they’ve developed a mind of their own and we’ve lost control.

As a result of watching this documentary, I decided that I would try to go an entire week without social media, mirroring the challenge that is set in the documentary for a teen boy.

Sadly, I was unable to fully commit and not use my phone at all since I need my phone to communicate with my parents in case of emergencies, emphasising how much we rely on our phones in general. even without social media.

This is partly due to the world we live in, which we’ve unfortunately learnt over the decades is not a safe place.

Despite this, I still committed to the challenge by deleting all of my social media apps off of my phone for an entire week. Every day I wrote notes about how having no social media affected my day, and when I read those notes back I felt accomplished due to the fact that I had replaced time that I would normally spend on social media with starting to read Jane Eyre and focusing on my school work.

Ultimately, I believe this week benefitted me greatly since I was more efficient and I had eliminated most of my distractions - I was no longer tempted to check my phone for constant updates like I had been trained to do by the algorithms.

On the other hand, as a teenage girl, being connected with my friends and being updated on what people post on social media is a huge aspect of my life and I felt very disconnected for a while.

Even though I was able to text my friends or speak to them at school, I still believed that I was missing out on what people were posting about their lives. I couldn’t use these posts to create conversation, and that worried me slightly.

I also noticed how much I rely on social media to boost my mood. I became quite ill at the beginning of the week and I was unable to watch TikToks that made me laugh or watch Instagram stories to inform me of what my friends were up to - a very alien feeling to me.

I began to think that although the intention of the algorithms may have been corrupted, the effect on me can be highly positive sometimes.

Throughout the week I learned to enjoy not being on my phone and since I re-downloaded all my social media apps I haven’t been using them as obsessively as I was before.

I would recommend that everyone tries to fulfil a social media detox and recognise that we don’t need to rely on social media as much as we’ve been programmed to believe we do.