“The Social Dilemma” Review

Netflix documentary discusses modern problems with social media

Claire C. Stein, Staff Writer

On September 9th, Netflix released “The Social Dilemma,” a documentary-drama about the dangerous ways social media platforms function and their direct effects on society. For the millions of people – me included – who have profiles on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter and use popular search engines like Google on a day-to-day basis, “The Social Dilemma” is a must-watch. 

The docu-drama switches between movie-like scenes that follow a kid named Ben and interviews from ex-employees of major social media companies. Ben’s plot, although dramatic, gives the watchers real-life examples of all the issues being described by the professionals, making the information easy to understand. 

The impressive lineup of interviewees, including former Google design ethicist and Center for Humane Technology co-founder Tristan Harris, provides the unique perspective of real people who worked within the industry. These ideas from people with diverse backgrounds who all describe the same issue show that this is not a problem within one company, it is industry-wide and begins with the advertisers. 

At the core of it, free media applications make money in one way: by advertising products. These companies analyze everything from how many times you enter the app, to how long you look at a specific picture. They then take this data to customize your feed to make you spend more time on the application. Push notifications and infinite scrolling keep users’ minds stimulated and constantly engaged. 

Essentially, the more time we spend on the app, the more money the company makes. What we previously considered to be privacy breaches, are now standard features in all big social media companies.

Along with the basic ethical concerns described, “The Social Dilemma” discusses issues involving climate change, politics, fake news, conspiracies, the economy, the influence of media around the world, and the increase in self-harm and suicide rates related to social media. The wide range of topics discussed makes this film perfect for everyone and critically relevant. Even those who don’t actively use media platforms will benefit from watching, as this is not just an internet issue; it is a societal one. 

I would recommend “The Social Dilemma” to anyone. It provides insight into an industry that was previously kept secret to the public. It is intriguing, yet disturbing, to see just how much information these companies have on each of us and how they influence our decisions. It might just change your perspective about some of your favorite applications and the impact they have on you.