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The Social Dilemma is Eye-Opening and Unsettling

January 6, 2021

Get ready to feel like you need to throw your phone out of the nearest window, because Netflix’s new documentary surrounding social media is more informative and provocative than anyone thinks.

In the words of FCHS Mass Media teacher Elizabeth Pellicane, The Social Dilemma might be “the most important thing you watch this year.” It is eye-opening and full of information presented in an easy-to-understand manner. It provides blunt, harsh, even somewhat unimaginable truths regarding what social media and software companies are doing to try and keep you on your screens and using their platforms as much as humanly possible.

So what is exactly is The Social Dilemma? The Social Dilemma is a documentary with a few thematic elements that was released by Netflix earlier this year. The 94-minute feature interviews with tech experts, most of them former employees for household names like Instagram and Facebook, who spill the beans and drop the dirty laundry and nasty little secrets of social media companies at the feel of an unsuspecting public. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist for Google who is called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience” by The Atlantic magazine, reveals to viewers that the social media we hold dear does not care about us.

Harris and others go into immense detail about how the algorithmic model that many social media platforms use is purposefully designed to keep people on their devices as much as possible. The algorithm tries to make you tech-addicted, even going as far as to make the notifications we receive so irresistible that we have to click on them. These experts show that the longer we are on our screens, the more ads we see and that those advertisers, in turn, supply the software companies with the money they need to keep us addicted.

In the words of Aza Raskin, Harris’s cofounder of the Center for Humane Technology, “Advertisers are the customers. We’re the thing being sold.”

What I enjoyed most about The Social Dilemma is that the entire docudrama hybrid gives Generation Z a valid response to when older people tell us “You’re always on that phone!” It gives us the necessary information we did not have before to defend ourselves in a way that would not get turned around on us. Now, we can confidently argue that we are being psychologically manipulated into finding solace in our screens.

I also really enjoyed the way the film presents the information in easy-to-understand, non-techie language, paired along with either a graph or a statistic that backs up the information in an undeniable, unarguable way. In the middle of watching the documentary, I deleted Pinterest from my phone because I was so unsettled. With the new knowledge this documentary presented me, my screen average screen time went from 3.5 hours to 1 hour, and my overall mood has improved since that change. It would not be an exaggeration to say that watching this documentary has changed my life for the better.

One complaint I do have is that some of the thematic elements of The Social Dilemma are very exaggerated. In one scene where a fictional family tries to free itself from the grip of social media, the youngest daughter smashes a locked box with a wrench so she can get her phone. The scene seems exaggerated and forced. Also, considering the blunt and disturbing content the documentary delivers, I don’t think anybody under 12 should watch this documentary.

Overall, The Social Dilemma is a very educational documentary that will keep people on the edge of their seats and biting their nails. I would recommend it to each and every person who owns an active social media account.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Jocelynne Hagan
Jocelynne Hagan, Senior Editor

Jocelynne, or Joey to her peers, is a senior and the senior editor of the Fluco Beat.  She loves dancing, reading, gardening, and studying.

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