Movie Review: The Social Dilemma

by Libby Chalamish, Opinions Contributor
photo courtesy of Netflix

While it is no secret that social media manipulates users, the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” exposes the extent to which companies go to keep their customers addicted. Through somber music and sinister messages, the documentary forces viewers to rethink not only their personal decisions regarding social media, but also the way society functions as a whole. At its core, “The Social Dilemma” is a documentary with two main goals — to warn watchers of the dangers of social media and to encourage large social media corporations to change how they operate. 

“The Social Dilemma” effectively educates people about the dangers of social media by explaining its role in dividing our society both politically and socially. Generation Z is widely considered to be among the most polarized groups in history, and the documentary argues that, by only showing its users posts and articles that support their political opinion, social media has played a large role in creating such a pronounced political divide. The documentary exposes these issues with social media, and, while it does not offer a direct solution to this problem, it educates people about the potential destruction that one might take going down the path of social media. 

Audiences, however, should recognize the hypocrisy of the film. Director Jeff Orlowski showed a lack of perspective by only condemning the media’s use of manipulation. In one instance, he explains how search tools hide information from their users by only showing them one side of the story: if one has left-leaning political views they will most likely only see accounts that share their perspective. The filmmakers end up contradicting themselves by using that same tool of manipulation to play with viewers’ minds and only showing the negative side of social media, while refraining from acknowledging its benefits. 

Notably, the documentary provides no solutions to the social media problem. After nearly an hour and a half of slamming social media and warning watchers of its terrible and dangerous implications, it offers no proper remedies. Their so-called “solutions” are extremely conventional and unoriginal — they urge social media users to turn off notifications, delete unnecessary apps, consult reputable sources and view content from people with different points of view. The entire documentary creates an aura of suspense and mystery that appears to be leading to some sort of grand, earth-shattering conclusion; instead, offering no real solutions, the documentary leaves watchers feeling confused and powerless.

The documentary’s paradoxical and hypocritical nature ultimately degrades its message and makes viewers even more unsure of who to trust. When watching “The Social Dilemma,” it’s important not to fall prey to its manipulative techniques and remember that it appears to be geared more toward instilling fear than educating its audience about the harms of social media. Viewers should continue doing their own research, fact-check all sources and remember that the world isn’t black and white — there are two sides to every story.