Netflix’s Social Dilemma made me question my social media usage

By Jenna Dunn '21

The Social Dilemma, featured on Netflix’s Top 10 and directed by Jeff Orlowski, explores the negative effect of technology usage of social networks. My boyfriend and I watched it last weekend after we were casually looking for something to watch on Netflix. Throughout the film, we found ourselves frequently pausing the TV. It triggered us to talk about our personal views and experiences with different technology platforms. We both agreed on many statements made by the documentary. It regards the way technology, specifically social media, gathers your personal data. Furthermore, the effects of social media have an influence on your emotional and mental well-being. The data and insight is collected so engineers and marketers can specifically figure out what makes you addicted to social media. They employ design techniques to obtain people’s attention, time, and money. Psychoanalysts use psychology to find out exactly what makes people innately need to constantly have their phone on them and check their social media platforms.
The credibility lies in the technology experts featured on the show who have worked for Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Pinterest. Tim Kendall is one of the major names involved in the documentary. He was former president of Pinterest and later Director of Monetization at Facebook. He ties today’s increase in mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness with the greater influence social media has on teenagers and young adults’ self esteem. In addition to that, social media also has a large effect on political views and social issues misinformation today. Our minds are completely twisted by social media platforms and the transportability of phones. For adults, think about all the times they are on their email or receive updates from work. They are addicted to checking their email without even realizing it. Twenty years ago, you would have to go on a computer to check whatever you needed to do. However, now, it is as easy as taking your phone out of your pocket. That can have many benefits, but the downside is it takes people’s attention away from the real world. Additionally, going on a phone is all some people do instead of developing hobbies, interests, or connecting with friends and family. Transportable technology is the road to a world of complete self-absorbance. Mental health issues throughout this world are largely to blame on social media. For example, teenagers and young adults are subconsciously comparing themselves to their peers and social media figures. An important quote from the movie, “There are only two industries that call their customers users, illegal drugs and software” (The Social Dilemma, 31:48). It shows that even the software industry knows how addictive their products are.
With every documentary, there is some exaggeration. Some of the statistics and facts were out of reach and not very relatable to many social media users. For this reason, I slightly criticize the filmmaker’s decision to do that. Also, confusing and phony animations were used to represent how engineers collect data from your every move on every cellular device that you own. This draws and captivates the attention of the audience. The hypocrisy of this aspect of the film can be ignored quite easily, however. There are several actors and actresses that act in the documentary to serve as a modern-day example of a phone addicted family of four. The conversations between the parents and teenagers seem fictional and outlandish. In conclusion, this documentary tries to convince the audience through obscure forms of persuasion and exaggeration.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film. The things and facts I learned outweighed the negative aspects of the documentary. After watching it, I became more aware of the way social media, email, and just having my phone around me impacts me. I am more educated and conscious so I can be in the moment and happier for not only myself, but everyone around me.