“The Social Dilemma” Review

Orlowski’s 2020 drama-documentary explores the dangerous human impact of social networking

When I was given an assignment in my English class to create a presentation about the documentary “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, I was intrigued. The assignment was to answer the question, “is power good or bad?” and connect it with the topic I was given. Before watching the documentary, I researched it to see what I was getting myself into. Soon, I learned that it would explore whether social networking is impacting humans positively or negatively. 


“The Social Dilemma” starts off by interviewing employees from major social media brands such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google. Every person was asked the simple question of “what is the problem?”; however, none of them could come up with an answer. They all struggled to find one main problem with social networking as there were too many. The documentary constantly switches back and forth between news stations and real life situations with how teens interact with social media and how it affects their daily lives. 


Tristan Harris, one of the main interviewees, explains what the companies do with their programs to achieve two goals that ultimately lead to them making money. To start off, there is the engagement goal where viewers are encouraged to keep scrolling through the app by getting a new feed everytime the page is refreshed. Second, the growth goal is to get viewers to invite their friends and family to download and use the app, gaining the company more money, which now leads to their third and final goal: the advertising goal. From these two goals, as people are scrolling through the app, the company displays a variety of ads that ensures the influx of money does not stop. Shoshana Zuboff, a professor at Harvard, reveals that companies have realized that “they can affect real-world behavior and emotions without ever triggering the user’s awareness. They are completely clueless.” 


Overall, I believe the documentary does an excellent job at informing viewers with the true intent of social networking companies: to make a profit. The documentary repeatedly switches back to scenes with three workers who constantly try to get everyone to check their phones and go on their apps, by observing their screen time and giving notifications that help them reach their engagement goal. In addition, it shows real life scenes with a family with kids who are addicted to their phones and can barely last a dinner without checking their notifications. By showing that addiction to checking the screen, teens watching can relate to the teens in the documentary, and they can finally become aware of the damage technology does to them. 


If you are interested in becoming more educated about the real dangers of technology and what the true goals of social networking is, watching this documentary will allow you to become aware of how your phone affects your life without you knowing. Will this documentary make you delete your social media? Watch it to find out!

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA: A documentary that uncovers the secrets of technology and how it influences its viewers in a negative way.
(Poster from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 )