‘The Social Dilemma’ highlights social media issues with subpar execution


Anderson’s Afterthoughts reviews The Social Dilemma.

Social media has and will continue to affect the way we behave and think. Whether one uses it to get news or like friends’ posts, no one can deny the significant impact of social media. Netflix’s 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, explores the negative impact and influence that social media has left in its wake.

The movie opens with a quote by Sophocles: “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” The Social Dilemma tackles the curses that social media introduced to society. Filmed in a documentary-style, where prominent social media pioneers in the technology industry are interviewed, the movie also cuts to scenes that follow a family dealing with issues surrounding social media. The film includes interviews with numerous tech-figures, such as the former president of Pinterest Tim Kendall and founding father of virtual reality Jaron Lanier. 

To the average social media consumer, this movie was horrifying. Thanks to The Social Dilemma, viewers are introduced to terms such as “growth hacking”, where social media companies hack into people’s data in order to increase their activity on their app, and “persuasive technology”, which is technology designed to influence how people behave on and off of social media. Both of these terms are depicted as terrifying methods to influence consumers.

The documentary specifically targets Facebook as the most infamous company that utilizes these strategies, but other social media companies, such as Twitter and Reddit, have used these methods as well. The Social Dilemma shows that social media was originally intended to be a tool for communication, but is now being manipulated to keep users active. 

While every person with access to the internet should be informed of these issues, The Social Dilemma is not a perfectly made documentary. The scripted sections of the film were subpar at best and leave the viewer longing to cut to another interview. Additionally, while these performances put emphasis on how these issues play a part in a normal family, the acting was average at best and most scenes showed extreme and even unrealistic scenarios. The contrast between these the scripted sections and the interviews is blunt and the transitions are abrasive. Another flaw of the documentary is the extensive amount of topics that they dived into without providing adequate solutions. Of course there are ways to help, but it leaves viewers feeling overwhelmed and a bit hopeless throughout the film, a common issue with documentaries. 

For those interested in watching The Social Dilemma, it is available on Netflix, but hopefully accessibility will expand to reach a broader audience and spread its wisdom on social media farther.


Rating: 6/10