The Social Dilemma is a new documentary on Netflix that digs into the impact of social media. This documentary successfully explains why one is watching it even before the first scene ends. The documentary, directed by Jeff Orlowski, may make everyone want to delete his or her social media accounts. It also shows how the US suicide rates of teenage girls have gone up by 151%. Non-fatal self-harm is up 189% for the preteen girls. That is nearly triple. These rates show the deadly effects of social media on young minds.
The detailed narrative demands close attention. The documentary is simply preaching what we’ve been hearing for years. The preach is that you need to use technology and social media carefully. It tells you that these apps collect our data, which can be very dangerous especially for mental health. Social media has been essentially spreading misinformation on a mass scale too. The subjects in the documentary explore these questions and make a strong case by explaining the whole procedure in detail. The Social Dilemma debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2020.
Ex-employees from tech giants like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are warning us about the systems they helped to create. This makes it much more useful than reading an editorial or listening to a podcast.
The documentary shocks you and serves its purpose. The sound effects closely resemble horror movies and are edited to make you feel like you need to be careful. Besides detailed interviews from tech experts, the documentary runs a parallel fictional story. This story is about how social media affects the life of a suburban family. The show has a difficult and shocking scene where a young girl goes to great lengths to reach her phone. This scene will surely remain with us for a long time.
Some of the tech experts interviewed in the film include Tim Kendall, former president of Pinterest and former director of monetization at Facebook. It features Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, and Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology who worked at Google and which is clearly the engine of the documentary.
A hard-hitting point that might convince you to rethink your social media use is here. You must know that these tech experts regulate the use of the very apps they created for their children. Harris explains the three main goals of technology companies. The engagement objective, to make you scroll; the growth objective, to keep you coming back; and the purpose of advertising – whoever pays the bills. These goals are supported by algorithms. The algorithms know what to show you.
The timing of this documentary is both tragic and appropriate. COVID-19 has made us all stuck to technology more than ever. How else could we talk to friends, check on loved ones, keep up with the news, and attend conferences? One of the most logical points is that the coronavirus has pushed the spread of fake news. And outlets like WhatsApp and Facebook are being used to spread misinformation.
If you think for a moment, it’s almost crazy to think about the time and energy these billionaires are spending on us. A line in the documentary says, “If you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.” They clearly know that someone spends a few more seconds on cartoons these days than on pictures of dogs. We may be useless to them, but our data is not. The predictability models allow these companies to collect our data. Nothing is safe. Your privacy is violated. You have no secrets. It is out in the open.
“Fighting fire with fire” is one of the action options on The Social Dilemma’s website. It encourages you to share The Social Dilemma on social media, with those who need to see it most. Tim Kendall, the former president of Pinterest, shares an incident where he couldn’t leave his phone after coming home from work. He was going to work during the day and building something that kept him glued till night. “I couldn’t help myself,” he says. We can relate to this problem of catching ourselves falling prey to social media and tech. Everyone these days is on the phone scrolling or doing something. The notification tone causes panic. We have an urge to pick up our phones.
Another important theme in The Social Dilemma is the political polarization that social media has created. It shows real videos of protests in different parts of the world. It encourages sensational and breaking news. Social media is full of violence. You see more of what you follow. If you’re a supporter of a political party, the algorithm will encourage your hatred for the other group. Other deadly figures show suicide rates of US teen girls have gone up by 151%, while the preteen girls doing self harm has almost tripled at 189%. This poses a serious threat on the young minds. People are ready to kill and be killed due to social media.
The documentary shows the Big Tech Anti-Trust Congress hearing that took place in the United States. We remember how many times these powerful men like Zuckerberg responded: “I don’t know” or “I’ll answer you on this” to questions raised by lawmakers. Most of them were answering questions about the data breach, interference in political activities, and market dominance. We are just pawns in the big game. There is no dilemma about The Social Dilemma. It shocks you to the core and hits you hard. The only solution we can gather is proceeding with caution.