Documentary Review: The Social Dilemma (Netflix)

Directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis, The Social Dilemma aired on Netflix in September 2020 and explores the rise of social media. Focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, the documentary looks at the damage it has caused to society, how its design is meant to nurture addiction, its use in politics, its effect on mental health, and its role in spreading conspiracy theories.

Rating:

The Social Dilemma is a documentary that we all need to watch. There may be a lot that we already know about or make assumptions about, especially in regards to advertising and fake news, but it gets you thinking about your own usage of social media and I think it’s important that we all evaluate that.

I’m not going to suddenly delete all of my social media pages because I see the positives in it, too. It’s how I connect with family that is 300 miles away. Still, there is a switch that comes on now that says “Time for a break” or “More important things are going on around you.”

Cut together with a dramatisation starring actors Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, and Vincent Kartheiser, which tells the story of a teenager’s social media addiction, I wasn’t particularly interested in this part of the documentary. What made it worthwhile, for me, was the real people it brought it together.

Interviewing those who have worked for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, university professors who have studied the effects of social media, and tech experts who are more alert to the intentions behind our screens, it’s interesting to get a bit of insider knowledge. It’s even more interesting to see how these social media makers and researches are sounding the alarm on their own creations and admitting to falling into their own webs.

Full of great insight, I especially like the links to social media and drugs which I haven’t thought about before. It’s vital that we are aware of what goes on behind the [phone] screen so that we can assess our usage and make the decision for ourselves about how we want to use social media and allow it to use us.

It’s certainly a dilemma. One thing I’m certain of is that I will be looking at how my children begin to use social media in the future and at how I will adjudicate that, because I doubt it’s going to get any better/safer over the next few years.

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