The Social Dilemma shows the unsocial aspects of our digital lives

Niamh Quinlan

The new documentary on Netflix, “The Social Dilemma”, doesn’t tell us anything new: social media is bad. We know this and we’ve known it for a while. But what it reveals, is why we don’t stop.

Technology and social media giants work tirelessly to get you addicted to their app or website by tapping into psychological impulses buried deep in the brain. The film’s message is telling us that we’re in a nightmarish, real-life episode of “Black Mirror”, where AI will not take over the world in the future: because it already has.

Calling in experts including Tim Kendall, former Director of Monetization at Facebook; Jaron Lanier, a founding father of virtual reality; Tristan Harris, former design ethicists at Google and the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”; and Justin Rosenstein who helped to create the Facebook Like button.

These specialists talk about how out of control and unmanageable it’s gotten.

Everything started as a way to connect people. But now it has led to a polarisation within populations, politically, socially, and culturally.

The dramatic aspect of this documentary presents itself as a fictional family and their struggles with social media, reflecting on what the specialists are warning us about.

From the low self-esteem side effects of a simple selfie post; to possible radicalisation with conspiracy theory groups the family goes through the extremes, but nothing really we haven’t seen before.

The documentary is peppered with these zero to one hundred scenarios. When asked what his fear for the future was, Kendall replied that “in the shortest time horizon”, he feared a civil war.

He sees a war that will divide a country in the near enough future. And he’s probably right.

It’s all very real and all very terrifying. The idea that someone can take a class in the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab and then go on to work with a company that controls your mood, your ideas, your beliefs, your friends, everything.

Social Media has taken over our lives. We knew this, but we didn’t know how sinister it had truly become.

“The Social Dilemma” doesn’t try to tell us that we need to delete all social media and throw our phones away. It calls for reform, protection and laws put in place for the benefit of society.

It shows a the need for it to throw away the religion of profit at all costs.

The documentary is literal and comprehensive. They use experts and interviewees expressing their fear and the dramatic life of the family falling into chaos due to a social media addiction as examples for the audience.

It’s a film that could be shown in a secondary school classroom for students to understand the power and control social media has over our society.

As the film says itself, it’s our social dilemma to get control of this before it gets so much worse.

Niamh Quinlan

Image Credit: Netflix