The 1 (and the 2) – the influence and impact of the web in schools and society

The 1 (and the 2) – the influence and impact of the web in schools and society

Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix and comment on how Web 2.0 (the social web) has influenced our lives in positive and negative ways and how this might implicate (or has implicated) our schools and society.

I chose this option for the blog post this week for a couple of reasons. 1, I have watched The Social Dilemma before and wanted to rewatch it a couple of years later. 2, as it has been a couple of years, I was curious about how it has aged since its release in 2020. 3, taking my 4th and 5th Ed. Tech classes now, I was interested in a rewatch from a more broadened perspective on the various aspects of social media and its implications in the field of education (and society). So let’s dive in!

This documentary has a very “doom and gloom” vibe to it right off the hop with the background music and production style, and I remember this from my first watch. I tried to be mindful of this and focus on the facts being presented. And while I have about a billion thoughts after this rewatch, I will try to stay somewhere in the arena of “Web 2.0” and “schools”.


The subjects of the documentary, who work in various capacities for big tech companies like Google and Facebook, spoke a lot about the responsibility or moral obligation of the companies who aided in the creation of these types of media (Web 2.0) to protect users from their psychological effects, especially for young people. This made me wonder, though – whose responsibility is it truly when confronted with a certain vice to not experience the negative outcomes of said vice? If we think about all of the things in the world that are negative or harmful to people in excess – drugs and alcohol, tobacco and related products, sugar and unhealthy food – how much of it is these profiting companies’ responsibility to protect consumers versus the consumer’s responsibility to make the choice that protects themselves? I suppose the big difference here is that today, society understands the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and vaping, and make the choice to partake by individually weighing the pros and cons in some capacity. It is common knowledge that too much sugar or fatty foods is harmful to the body and this is taught in classrooms at all ages. The knowledge and understanding that society isn’t as privy to is the harmful, addictive effects of the social web, or “Web 2.0”. As a society, we are getting there – learning about the correlation between social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, namely among youth, but not nearly at the same rate as technology grows and changes.

I’m not saying that I think these tech conglomerates are off the hook and shouldn’t be held responsible for their role in altering human behaviour; however, in an educational setting, it is a perfect opportunity to teach students about the effects of social media use and point out their ability to make choices and changes as individuals. The balance of pain and pleasure is referenced in the documentary by Shoshana Zuboff, an important reminder that life is not meant to be comfortable all the time. How can young people cope with the inevitable challenges and hardships that life inevitably brings to all of us if they are constantly reaching for their “digital pacifier” (43:46) in uncomfortable situations? Social media and other features of the social web should not act as a replacement for properly unpacking and working through the challenging parts of the human experience.

Some of the advice given at the very end of the documentary to help create a more balanced relationship with technology includes having limits on social media usage for young people, turning off notifications, removing devices from bedrooms at night and co-creating a “time budget” with children for how much screen time they can have. These are all things that can (and should) be discussed in a classroom setting to equip students with the tools they need to navigate an increasingly tech-infused society.


The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 took us from being passive consumers to active producers of content, or at the very least, “active consumers”. What I mean is, people now can add to the conversation or simply participate by being present in these spaces. From an educational standpoint, the importance of teaching students how to distinguish fact from fiction is significantly more important in these 2.0 times. Further, having honest conversations with students about the power of these platforms to influence is just as important, as much of the change they cause is gradual and generally imperceptive. While teaching students how to distinguish fact from fiction on the social web is of course important, so too is having open discussions about how fact and fiction can (and does) influence people.

Social media has emphasized political polarization and the followings of extremist groups, and it has made it increasingly easier for people to fall prey to various propaganda. On the other hand, the social web has allowed for sharing of helpful ideas in ways that were not possible prior to the invention of the internet. As a mom of a baby and toddler, I take to social media accounts almost daily for advice or answers to my many questions. At times I do need to remind myself, though, that what I read online is not law, and I have agency to make my own informed choices about how I parent. In the classroom, social media can provide the ability to connect with others and allow for incredible learning opportunities from a multitude of different perspectives, but navigating the depths of Web 2.0 needs to be carefully guided by teachers in order for it to be productive and positive.


There were so many things that stood out to me this rewatch, but here are a few of the quotes that really resonated:

1:17:49 – “It’s not about technology being the existential threat; it’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat.” – Tristan Harris

When we try to determine who, or what, is to blame for technology’s negative impacts, it is important to remember that technology can only do so much in isolation; it’s power still lies in its utilization by people. Tech amplifies human emotion, connection, and desires, all of which can be “good” or “bad”. It’s still up to the choices people make when engaging with technology that determines the outcome and overall impact, and teachers play an important role in helping their students understand the agency and power they have when using social technology.

1:21:43 – “It’s simultaneous utopia and dystopia.” – Tristan Harris

Technology has provided an incredible world where people can connect, learn, create – all of which can be amazing! But online social spaces are not all positive and productive. It is confusing for all people to decipher what is good and bad online, not just young people. Spending time in the classroom discussing this can be beneficial in helping students build a strong foundation to be able to navigate in the online social sphere independently, respectfully and responsibly.

1:25:39 – “We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending the time living our life in a rich way.” – Justin Rosenstein

Remembering that companies like Google and Facebook set out, in the creation of their products, to make money, first and foremost. Users can get tricked into thinking that they always have peoples’ best interest at heart because of all of the beneficial services they provide. Even if creators do believe in creating products following some sort of moral or ethical code, it is still highly important for them to be profitable. Spending time away from the screen, which is proven to improve mental and physical health, is not profitable to these companies. Talking about this with students is crucial in helping them make their own decisions about their personal wellness and quality of life and recognizing when companies’ advertising tactics and addictive features are stealing them away from living their lives in the real world.

Final Thoughts

Near the end of the documentary Jaron Lanier said “it’s the critics that drive improvement.” The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 has changed education and society in both positive and negative ways. Teachers can help spark major positive change by initiating big conversations in the classroom about the kind of world students want to live in and how to be critical consumers and producers of content to get them there.

2 thoughts on “The 1 (and the 2) – the influence and impact of the web in schools and society

  1. Great read! I didn’t have time on the weekend to sit down and rewatch this doc but after reading your post I think I’m going to have to watch it soon.
    I really liked this quote that you pulled:

    1:17:49 – “It’s not about technology being the existential threat; it’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat.” – Tristan Harris

    Is the issue at hand the actual technology, or what we are allowing it to do to us? It also makes me wonder if it really is a threat… or if when something new comes out, we all gravitate toward it, overdo it, then learn to self regulate with it.. going back with a new perspective would definitely be interesting.

  2. Your comprehensive dissection of “The Social Dilemma” deftly highlights the documentary’s investigation of Web 2.0 and its implications for our daily lives, particularly in relation to society and education. Your examination of accountability and the fine line that must be drawn between individual choices and corporate accountability is impressive. Making comparisons to other vices like drugs and junk food improves the conversation’s depth and emphasizes how important it is to inform people about the possible risks of using social media for extended periods of time.

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