We had plenty of suspicions about social media platforms long before “The Social Dilemma” dropped on Netflix. The streamer’s new documentary breaks down even more reasons to distrust social media behemoths. Be afraid. Be very afraid. But, of course, be suspicious of any Hollywood product purporting to tell the unvarnished truth. “The Social Dilemma” is no exception.
The docudrama, and we’ll get to that descriptor in a moment, begins with a chilling quote from Sophocles: “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”
The film introduces us to former big tech employees who fled their respective companies after their Spider Senses started to tingle. Or, to be more accurate, began ringing like a fire alarm in “The Towering Inferno.”
Something is deeply wrong behind the scenes, and they could no longer be part of the problem.
These young, articulate ex-tech employees share how Silicon Valley’s noble intentions turned toxic before their eyes.
“We were naïve about the flip side of the coin,” one ex-worker explains about social media’s promise to make a better future for its users.
From there, it’s a compendium of shocking reveals about how social media works and why we can’t stop consuming it. It’s socially addictive, for starters, and the algorithms tracking our every click ensure it stays that way.
It’s fascinating to see how social media works from the inside, how it preys upon human weakness and works overtime to inflame partisan divides.
Any casual Twitter user could tell you the same, but to see it broken down by the experts is eye-opening.
It’s a massive topic given social media’s tentacles in modern society, and the film only has 90 or so minutes to share its dire warnings. Yet a large chunk of that screen time is dedicated to a fictional family’s digital lifestyle. Professional actors like Skyler Gisondo (“Booksmart,” the “Vacation” remake) act out social media’s negative effects in clunky, oh, so obvious ways. Far better is seeing how Big Tech insiders struggle to keep their own families from staring at their smart phones for hours a day.
The fictional asides prove an atrocious creative decision, especially when we hunger for more hard data, more tools, to fight against social media overreach.
And it is a fight, one to protect our children, our families and, the movie alleges, our democracy, we’re told.
“The Social Dilemma” strains to be apolitical and mostly succeeds. Liberals should fear our digital overlords as much as rock-ribbed conservatives. Yet the film can’t help but tease themes from a progressive point of view.
Climate Change comes up frequently, and the documentary resurfaces the “Pizzagate” conspiracy, a favorite topic among liberals.
The film’s quiet biases are the most glaring during a foray into social media’s governmental powers. We’re told Facebook swayed an entire election and sent thousands of persecuted Muslims to flee their native Myanmar. Social media, we’re told, could do the same in other nations, even developed western cultures.
You know what’s coming next.
An ominous close up of Russian President Vladimir Putin, brought up in connection to America’s 2016 elections. “The Social Dilemma” slams on the brakes before it dons Hillary Clinton’s Tinfoil Hat, but the suggestions are both obvious and poorly defended.
The spectre of Fake News gets serious consideration here, with experts showing how it thrives on various platforms. It’s too much for any one documentary to connect those concerns with the Fake News churned out from The New York Times and other august news outlets, but their absence here is telling.
When the documentary shreds the “disinformation for profit” business model, it’s criminal not to name check CNN. It’s still notable how users of social media giants glom onto conspiracy theories and the people who adore them.
The solutions to our digital concerns, of course, aren’t easily found. The toothpaste is out of the proverbial tube, and it’s impossible to erase Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms with the snap of our fingers.
Big government regulation is essential, we’re told, much like the old Ma Bell phone company eventually felt the government’s boot for our collective good. Again, this part of the film needs more structure, more detail.
“The Social Dilemma” is an important watch despite its glaring flaws. We all need to know what we’re up against when we carelessly scroll through the platforms.
“The Social Dilemma” ends with experts sharing small, but valuable, tips to take back control of your life. It suggests a cultural component missing from our lives, but one that’s sorely needed in our educational system.
Social Media 101: What to Do and What to Avoid in Your Online World.
Without it, parents and family members alike are on their own with only intriguing but also flawed documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” as their guide.
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The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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