Pomfret's Social Dilemma

Changing the way we utilize social media on and beyond the Hilltop.


In February 2004, before most of our current students were even born, Facebook (then called “thefacebook”) entered the social media scene as a way for Harvard students to connect. In September 2006, it became accessible to everyone, and by July 2022, the social media giant was boasting a whopping 2.934 billion users. And Facebook is just one of the plethora of platforms our students are using to “connect.” With Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, they are constantly fed curated content that reinforces — or misinforms and challenges — their views and opinions. They have grown up in an online world, hyper-focused on likes, views, snapstreaks, comments, notifications, and going viral, which can have a negative impact on their mental health and self-esteem.
 


“The way we learn and interact with one another has changed,” said Head of School Tim Richards. “As a society, we have become disconnected with in-person interactions and turned to connecting online. It is the issue of our time and an issue for our school.” Knowing all of these things and in alignment with our vision of inspiring the next generation of change makers and problem solvers, Pomfret is doing something about it.

As a part of the orientation activities, students watched the 2020 Netflix docu-drama The Social Dilemma. The film features technologists, researchers, and activists working to align technology with the interests of humanity, and explores the consequences of our growing dependence on social media. It reveals how social media is reprogramming civilization, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations. 

After viewing the documentary, the community shared their perspective about what they learned from the screening. Students discussed misinformation, engagement, utilization, and anxiety related to global issues, Pomfret, and their personal lives. During the conversations about what Pomfret can do to reduce social media utilization, one student recommended hosting “no phone events” to encourage people to talk to one another instead of documenting everything around them. Another suggested a week of no cellphone use, similar to what was tested in the film and the social media detox month Pomfret held at the start of winter term last year. Discussions also focused on cyberbullying, and the suggestion to train and empower student leaders to respond to negative behavior on social media was brought up. 

“There is an almost universal agreement that learning how to use these tools responsibly is vitally important," shared History Teacher Doug Litowitz, who helped organize the screening. The entire school community will continue to explore ways to help students responsibly utilize social media and technology. 

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