Review of Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”

Is Doomsday Near?

Addison Becker, Staff Writer

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Society has heard the theories about robots taking over the world and AI’s destroying the human population, but this Netflix documentary makes these assumptions feel like reality. The Social Dilemma reveals how social media is harmfully addictive and troublesome to society. The documentary interviews many founding engineers of popular networking sites, such as Google, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. They compile these interviews into a doomsday-esque scenario, where, in the end, society fails. Alongside the interviews, is a fictional story portraying a teenage boy who is swayed through his social media recommendations and acts out because of it. The format of the documentary evokes a strong sense of fear in its audience, and it makes you want to unplug and delete your entire electronic footprint. 

 The documentary focuses on the ringleader of the exposé, Tristan Harris, who was a designer ethicist for Google before he realized these big tech companies don’t have the consumer’s best interest at heart. Throughout the film, he expands on how social media makes money through advertisements, and how apps are designed to capture your attention and keep you scrolling. There were multiple memorable quotes from the film, but this stood out to me “there are only two industries that call their customers users- the drug industry and social media networks.” This reveals the actual intentions of the media companies. The other engineers dive deeper into how notifications, such as photo tagging, likes, and direct messages were designed to generate activity on the sites. These notifications are a part of what makes social networking so addictive, they catch your eye and then keep you scrolling for hours on end, Tim Kendall, the previous CEO of Pinterest says. The film briefly talks about “Snapchat dysmorphia” and the impact beauty filters could have on young teens. They show the rates of teen suicide and how social networking is considered to be one of the main causes of the dramatic increase in suicides each year. The documentary features a psychologist, who explains that the long-term use of social networking sites is unknown. The producers do an excellent job of editing the interviews into a cohesive story about how social media is seriously affecting our lives. 

Oakton senior, Thomas Mika, watched the film and had some similar thoughts, “It was really eye-opening about the power these big internet companies hold,” he said. Mika continues by stating, “it was super interesting when they talk about the way that they (social media companies) pull users in.” All in all, the documentary certainly exposes the true intentions behind social media, and raises the question, at what end will they go to keep you scrolling? If you are curious about the underworkings of social media, The Social Dilemma is definitely a must-watch.