The Social Dilemma Movie Poster

Technology. What is it good for? A lot of things, such as simplifying tasks that could only be done in person, improving user experience on legal documents, and bringing information to us quicker than ever before. Socially, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among other apps have all been able to bring long lost relatives together, start movements, and entrepreneurial endeavors.

But as the social network has become bigger and faster, we have a society have definitely lost something, whether it be privacy, discernment, or ourselves as a whole. As we close on the first year of the new decade, we have to ask ourselves if The Social Dilemma we face is solvable or are we too far gone as a world to reverse it?

Is it possible to concurrently be timely and late? If yes, The Social Dilemma is it. With COVID-19 pushing so many of us into our homes, that has naturally upped our screen time and desire to feel “connected” to one another through longstanding applications. However, the problems outlined and posed are not new revelations. Nevertheless, there is a lot of sound information found in this perplexing hybrid movie of sorts.

The Social Dilemma may be most intriguing for those who like knowing the nuances and theoretical scientific/sociological concepts behind the behaviors and addictions 21st century technology heavily contributes to; it is more than just “dopamine hit.” There is some heady stuff and a viewer will probably feel smarter by watching. Director Jeff Orlowski leans on many who’s who of Silicon Valley, such as Tristian Harris (former design ethicist at Google—easily featured the heaviest), Justin Rosenstein (creator of the Like Button at Facebook), and Tim Kendall (former President of Pinterest). Their accounts are very much firsthand, not secondhand, which never makes the doc lacking for legitimacy.

What The Social Dilemma does lack is a commitment to what it is trying to accomplish. It is good enough as a documentary, but the decision to interject a drama that presumably serves as an attempt to display what the talking heads are stating is unneeded at best and clunky in a dopey hilarious way at worst starring Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, and Vincent Kartheiser as artificial intelligence.

The execution is similar to those old, ineffective D.A.R.E. commercials and the reenactments found on America’s Most Wanted, culminating in a farfetched worst-case scenario of sorts that feels more that it belonged as a “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” segment on Chappelle’s Show. For an actual drama exploring the depths of social media effects and addiction, look no further than the still underseen and underappreciated sharp satire of Ingrid Goes West, a 2017 release that has managed to stick with me for a while.

Sure, there is the whole question of whether watching this on Netflix where the app does the same actions that The Social Dilemma warns us of is sending the wrong message, but hey, a system cannot be eradicated in one day. Even if it could have been better for, say, 2015, knowledge is power, and The Social Dilemma provides a lot of it.


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