Review: The Social Dilemma

By Ben Meyer '22

The Social Dilemma is a new Netflix original documentary that talks about the good and bad associated with social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram. The Social Dilemma documentary includes interviews with former employees of large social media companies, professors, authors, and investors. The main point of the documentary is to show how these applications are designed to be addictive in order to influence people and generate large amounts of profits for social media companies. In addition, the show used actors to emphasize their points using dramatization. 

There are plenty of examples in The Social Dilemma that give you a better idea of how social media companies influence people.  For example, it feels like when you use Facebook, Instagram, Google Mail, and TikTok, you are getting something for free when you’re really not. All the major tech companies collect lots and lots of data, including tracking what you click on, where you go, what you search for, and almost every action you take on the internet. The engineers of these companies create algorithms to use the data they collected to model and predict what you may like, how you think, and what actions you may take. These algorithms are what hooks us into social media platforms, causing us to stay on their app or website and become addicted. By staying on social media platforms, the tech companies are figuring out which products and services should be advertised to you. The data makes you very valuable to the tech companies as they can generate revenues from advertisers. You become the “product” sold to the advertisers by the social media companies.

The negative impact of social media addiction can be isolation and depression. The documentary discusses how people are stuck in their phones and computers. Depression has gone up exponentially since the beginning of the social media platforms. In addition, fighting within families happens more often because of cell phone addictions.  Furthermore, family members use their phones at the dinner table instead of talking to each other. Not only that, but people do not even talk with each other in person as much anymore because they use texting and/or send photos to one another.  Moreover, people have the desire to look like their filtered images, influencing them to have plastic surgery or feel unwanted. In other words, the influence of social media platforms can be dangerous.

An example of the danger of these platforms is how fake news gets spread four times faster than true news on the internet. The conspiracy groups on these apps are put together because of an algorithm.  Thus, if you joined a conspiracy group about Flat Earthers, you might find a recommendation for a conspiracy group about how autism is caused by vaccines. Social media can bring people together to share their own views and opinions on these subjects, sometimes organizing and causing protests for conspiracy theories that may result in violence. 

In conclusion, I recommend watching The Social Dilemma. It gives you a thorough and insightful sense of how big tech companies and social media platforms take advantage of their users to earn large amounts of revenue. The companies collect data to predict what you may like to keep you hooked on their platforms. They predict what kind of products you will buy and then advertise them to you. The impact of keeping users hooked into their apps causes depression, isolation, and less in-person interactions. In addition, hooking the users of these apps helps spread news, usually fake news. In sum, social media platforms are using you without you being aware of it.