The Social Dilemma review

“The scariest yet simplest scenes were of faces staring aimlessly at a screen.”

Halfway through watching “The Social Dilemma,” I deleted YouTube and Instagram off of my phone, and in the next few days I stayed off of my phone religiously. 

“The Social Dilemma” is a documentary that gets expert testimony from tech developers that are “sounding the alarm on their own creations,” according to the Sundance Film Festival. It takes an inside look at Silicon Valley, where major tech companies produce popular platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. 

Some critics of the film assumed that this documentary would go right over the heads of the generations most affected by its consequences. However, during quarantine, Gen Z and millennials are on the internet more and more, and now might be the best time to look back at our screen time and notice a frightening trend. 

The film follows a regular family in America with two kids on social media as it documents the testimony of retired tech giants. They talk about the power that can be held by anyone with enough money and a target audience. This subconscious manipulation deals with our human psychology and leads to us never knowing that we have been controlled

The co-inventor of the Facebook like button, the former president of Pinterest, and many engineers from Instagram or Twitter, spoke out against their own creations. Some even admit to not allowing their own children on social media until college. 

The 90 minutes feel oddly like a horror movie, or a “Black Mirror” episode. Then you get a bitter taste of reality as you start to notice the parallels of the illustrated family in the real world. The scariest yet simplest scenes were of faces staring aimlessly at a screen, successfully shutting off their minds.

Going on YouTube may seem like a harmless thing to do, and it is—at least until you have spent more time than you intended on it. That’s when the platform has taken advantage of you. Experts reveal how they designed software to target the weakest point of human psychology for the sole purpose of having you stay on their website longer.

I just imagine my dull-faced self staring at the fifth ad on the 10-minute video that I never intended to watch and it makes me want to shut off my computer. The Guardian calls it an exposé on “a world drunk on dopamine,” and the film depicts just that, as well as the rise in depression and anxiety in generations that are direct products of social media.

After watching it, some time has passed and I’ve realized that it is impossible to stay off of the internet and all forms of social media, no matter how hard I try. YouTube is home to Crash Course and music videos, Instagram is where you probably found this article, and I watched the movie on Netflix. 

However, “The Social Dilemma” helped me become conscious of my actions on social media. The suggested solutions are not going to fix major issues, but right now, it may be more important to pose the question, “Is this becoming a problem?” to which this documentary responds, “Yes, most definitely.” 

Maybe it will give you some perspective as to why you scrolled an extra 30 minutes on Instagram after you got the notification that your friend posted a photo. Maybe it will help you avoid it, help you get back the three hours you spent on Instagram today. 

I doubt Instagram is going to be losing all that many users, but anyone who has any form of social media will at least be aware of what they are consuming online. If you have any social media account on any platform, this documentary is a must watch.