Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

The Social Dilemma
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Movie Depicts and Dramatizes How Social Media Can Prey on the Weak

Film : The Social Dilemma

Running time : 1 hour and 34 minutes

Language : English 

The Social Dilemma is an American docudrama which was released on Netflix in 2020, directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, David Coombe and Vickie Cutis. This is an eye-opening movie that all generations can enjoy but more than this, it is also an important film. It critically analyses the world after the advent of social media and succinctly portrays how dangerously social networks can become by preying on humans. There are various interviews of tech giants from the Silicon Valley who give insights and important information on how exactly social media is ruining the lives of our youth as a whole. The film starts with a distinct quote from the great philosopher, Sophocles : “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”

The film shows the life of a normal suburban American family which consists of a couple and their three children of different ages. The family’s life story’s drama is running side by side with the realities of the interviews from all these tech giants of Silicon Valley and what decisions they take directly affect normal people all over the globe like this family for example. The oldest is kind of aware of the evils of social media and she is more educated and in college so she kind of eggs on her younger siblings to spend less time on their smartphones but the kids ( one a high school teenager and another an eleven year old girl) do not pay any heed to her warnings but they continue to get swayed away by social media and they continue to fall deeper into the depth of the black hole created by social media which is negatively impacting these teenagers’ lives like many young and older people today.

The tech giants interviewed on this film are not just any tech giants, they are people like Tristan Harris who used to be the former Google Design Ethicist ( 2013-2016) who is now the co-founder of Center for Humane Technology, Tim Kendell who was the former president of Pinterest, Jaron Lanier, a well-known American computer scientist  and the author of Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018), Justin Rosenstein , a former Facebook Engineer and a former Google Engineer and the likes like them. The revelations from these individuals are shocking and scary but we should be grateful for such a documentary because this documentary is this giant gong sounding the biggest alarm about our unaware and ignorant usage of social media networks such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Google, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn etc.

When Cambridge Analytica happened, nobody truly cared about what social media is doing to us but more and more people, especially from Silicon Valley, the deep recesses of the caves of the tech giants have been whistle blowing and it is high time that people start to take these warnings seriously. Jaron Lanier says that the product is us in this surveillance business. He says, “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.” That is because the data that we provide and post on these social media networks where we are incessantly and compulsively using them are being closely monitored by supercomputers used by these tech companies on which their engineers run programmes to enable the algorithms to build models, tell our personality types and predict our actions in order to be able to use that to the advantage of companies to sell us ads that we would like to see or contents that would interest us and because of the incessant consuming of these information, we gradually start to change our behaviour as individuals but the only thing we don’t know is that we are being influenced without us even realising it because we don’t see any harm in scrolling our phone screens or posting a cute picture of ourselves on social media. The fact is that everything we do online is monitored to the T.

These companies want us to look at more advertisements so that they can make more money to benefit themselves, not the people in general. The film also shows us the the generation Z is a lot more fragile and depressed because of the constant need for perfection because of social media networks and more and more people are getting addicted to their smartphones and more young people are getting suicidal. The rest of us are just being fed fake news and biased political agendas. The tech giants also say through this film that the information we receive from these networks are not objective such as Wikipedia but are very biased and they feed different people different feeds and it is a major problem because algorithms are getting smarter day by day. There is plenty of xenophobia, hate speeches, political polarisation, fake news due to these different and unobjective feeds. For example, the genocideof Rohingya Muslims was instigated by Islamophobia which was spread through platforms like Facebook. Aza Raskin informs us  that social media is paid by advertisers and that we are the product. The tech companies use a method called ‘Persuasive Technology’ which is a scientific method learned to change behaviour of people using technology.

This film also gives us some possible solutions such as not to watch recommended videos on YouTube and to try and use our smartphones for only some hours instead of entire days and nights and to try and do activities in and around our homes or hang out outside instead of always being on the internet.

This film is a truly amazing watch. It is available on NETFLIX.

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