Daniel Ketchelos—Staff Writer
People are social. Human connection is a necessity. But what happens when the drive for interaction becomes overconnected? The Netflix Original documentary, The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, uncovers the dangerous side effects of overconsumption in an online social world.
Former leaders of large tech corporations come forward with chilling information on the negative effects of overindulging in social networking. They speak out against corporations using technology to manipulate our opinions, the rise of fake news, and how depression rates are increasing as a result of overconsumption.
Intimate interviews with former tech leaders saturate this piece. Notable figures include former Design Ethicist for Google, Tristan Harris, Former Twitter Executive, Jeff Seibert, and computer scientist Jaron Lanier. These former tech leaders advocate against their social inventions and how they negatively affect society.
Harris argues against the algorithm that manipulates individuals. He emphasizes how notifications, data tracking, and recommended content works to increase the algorithm’s manipulation of the mind. The narrative of this documentary sends a warning to parents, teens, and businesses on how social networking manipulates the way people think and respond to social issues.
“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 that time living our life in a rich way,”
The Social Dilemma is not a feel-good movie. This film explores the circulation of fake news, an increase in self-harm and suicide rates among teens, and how social networking causes people to constantly consume information. Throughout the flick, the algorithm is personified to show how individual choices are manipulated by technology. Harris emphasizes how each choice made on social media is not independent of the algorithm. Every swipe, tap, and click has been influenced by a system built to sell the user.
Another key argument made in this documentary reveals how the user functions a product to be sold to corporations.
“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 that time living our life in a rich way,” said Justin Rosenstein, former Facebook engineer.
Advocating the importance of freeing oneself from technological manipulation stands out as a common theme throughout The Social Dilemma. Harris urges corporations to develop software that is humane and does not take advantage of consumers.
Despite thorough research and credible sources, a few parts of this film are distracting. A fictional dramatization of Gen-Z becoming addicted to social networking is used throughout the film to aid the factual narration. These sequences featured subpar acting and overdramatization that was unappealing to watch. If the filmmakers had substituted these sections with real people dealing with their problems, it would have made the piece more impactful.
Minus a few unnecessary elements, this is a documentary for everyone who uses social networking services. Understanding how corporations use these apps to alter how individuals think and respond to issues is important. Consumers should be actively understanding and criticizing the information they take in, and sources provide information that may help individuals become independent of their devices. If you are seeking to understand how corporations develop services to influence an audience, this piece will provide more insight. Overall, The Social Dilemma receives a 7/10 for excellent research, but overdramatized scenes and poor acting drag it down somewhat.