Why Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” is making people want to throw out their phones

Why Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” is making people want to throw out their phones
Source: Exposure Labs, Netflix

Social media is an essential aspect of most people’s daily lives. Whether it be for interacting with friends, following your favorite celebrities or keeping up with the news, your phone is probably the most used tool in your life. However, the very devices which have made our lives so much more convenient are apparently more harmful than we realize. Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” is a documentary exploring the harmful impacts social media has in every aspect of a person’s life.

The invasive tentacles of social media and technology

Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” began streaming September 9. Jeff Orlowski, an Emmy-award winning director for his work on the 2012 documentary “Chasing Ice” and 2017 documentary “Chasing Coral,” directed the film. “The Social Dilemma” features various interviews from tech experts who have worked for the very companies the documentary is coming after. These are mixed with a second narrative, where actors play out each chapter of the documentary film throughout the film’s 94-minute runtime.

The film’s experts discuss every possible ethical issue related to technology – from surveillance capitalism to the harmful effects of social media, particularly among young children and early teenagers. According to the film, what started as a harmless way to bring positivity into the world by staying connected with friends has turned into a dangerous tool of manipulation, and most users are completely oblivious about it.

Source: Exposure Labs, Netflix

Co-founder of the Center for Human Technology, Tristan Harris, explains in the documentary: “Social media isn’t a tool that’s just waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them.” This is just one of many of the documentary’s revelations, which has viewers rethinking their social media usage.

Addressing the global dilemma

Although the film occasionally treads the line of exaggerating the severity of the situation via horror-movie sound effects and over-the-top reenactments, “The Social Dilemma” succeeds in shedding light on the science behind technology and social media addiction. The film breaks down exactly how companies like FaceBook, Twitter and Google manipulate people to make them addicted to their platforms.

Apart from focusing on the mental health aspect and the addictive nature of social media, “The Social Dilemma” also details how social media contributes to the spread of disinformation or “fake news,” which has disastrous effects on many nations, leaving countries more politically divided than ever before. They explore the infamous conspiracy theory of the 2016 Russian election hack. Harris says: “It’s like remote-control warfare. One country can manipulate another one without actually invading its physical borders.”

Source: Farragutful, Wikimedia Commons

The documentary also touches on Pizzagate, the famous now-debunked conspiracy theory that falsely accused a pizzeria of running a pedophilia ring. It explores how Facebook contributed to the spread of conspiracy theory, ultimately leading a man to fire three shots at the pizzeria from an AR-15-style rifle.

Despite focusing primarily on the problems the internet brings into society for most of the film’s runtime, it also attempts to offer solutions by asking experts about the future of social media and technology. Although, many of them suggest people should just “delete all of their social media.”

So much more is explored in “The Social Dilemma” than what is outlined in this article – this film is a must-watch for everyone.

“The Social Dilemma” is streaming exclusively on Netflix right now.

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