We are not the Consumer, We are the Product

Guest Speaker Max Stossel on Social Media Awareness

Sloane Fiverson, News Editor

On Monday, April 2, 2023, award-winning poet, filmmaker, and speaker Max Stossel addressed both the Upper and the Middle school on the topic of social media awareness. 

Before his work as the founder and CEO of Social Awakening, a group that promotes the healthy use of social media, Stossel was employed by many of these social media brands developing the technology for notifications. As a result of Stossel’s previous work, many of us are addicted to our phones. His experience within this industry gives him a unique perspective on many beloved apps, such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. No student or teenager can tell him, “You don’t understand,” because he really is an expert on the true intentions and inner workings of social media. Through Social Awakening, Stossel hopes to cure the addiction that is social media.  

“Max does achieve the impossible.”

— Barbara Smith (Upper School Guidance Counselor)


When you download an app, you would assume that you are the consumer, right? According to Stossel, not exactly. You are not the consumer, you are the product. This is all because of algorithms. Algorithms are programs within various social media apps that show us specific content the app believes we want to see. The goal of these algorithms is to keep us on the app for a long period of time so we see as many ads as possible. That’s the consumer: the companies and their ads. They pay social media platforms to show their advertisements to you. 

During his presentation, Stossel provided specific examples of how these apps keep us active for longer periods of time. For example, push notifications were an idea that Stossel helped to establish, which is now used on almost every app. The goal of these notifications is to pull you farther into the app and keep you there for longer. In addition, Stossel shared how ridiculous some notifications are. For example, on Snapchat, even when nothing is sent, you still get a notification that someone started typing. You could receive nothing, yet you return back to the app to check what is happening. 

What makes Stossel different from most social media-focused activists is that his goal is not for you to get rid of your phone or delete every single social media app. His goal is for everyone to become aware of the impact that social media has on their lives, especially middle school and high school students. By highlighting the true intentions of apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, Stossel encourages everyone to change how they use and approach social media. He said that once you cross the line between enjoying the app and just using it to use it, you should swipe out and focus on something that will make you genuinely happy.

MBS plans to continue to spread awareness about the pros and cons of social media with a new focus group facilitated by Upper School guidance counselor Mrs. Barbara Smith. She hopes that through programming facilitated by this focus group, students on campus will start to see a change in their social media habits.