In this time of polarising thoughts and divided opinions about almost everything on earth, Netflix has come up with a documentary that talks about the uncontrollable urge of being social. Well, the definition of becoming social in the 21st century has acquired a new meaning compared to its original one. Today becoming social means the presence on the social media networks, posting statuses on Facebook, engaging in debates on Twitter and going all glam on Instagram, Snapchat etc.. The documentary which is aptly named as ‘The Social Dilemma’ talks about the predicament about the changing perceptions and radicalisation of people, owing to what they see on the social media. On this show, various tech experts and ex-employees of the Silicon Valley giants have come together to share their views about their products and what actually has gone wrong with them.

The show begins as various ex-employees of companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest they offer their opinions about the products they were working on and how they realised it’s potential to become a terrible weapon. Interestingly, in parallel to this discussion, the audience gets introduced to an American family’s young teenagers and their usage of social media. As the discussion takes devious turns to reveal the true picture of the social ‘overexposure’, the family members also get sucked into the social media trap. The main purpose of this documentary is to draw attention to the fact that these social networking companies thrive on only one motto – Making money by manipulating human behaviour. The show highlights the fact that being addictive in nature, the social network monetises this compulsion of the user by showing them ads of their preference. The choice of advertisements are usually modelled on choices, fetishes, propaganda, conspiracy theories and the list goes on. At this point, an interesting fact comes up that only illegal drug peddlers and social media companies address their consumers as users! 

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, ‘The Social Dilemma’ talks to the men and women of the world of social media, who designed the Frankenstein’s monster which has now gone completely out of control, thanks to its ever-growing greed. Two important points come out of the discussion – One – The growing need for attention is affecting the mental health of the teenagers, who incidentally are the primary consumers. Two – Radicalisation of the public is inching democracy to its eventual death. A fact shows up on the show that it’s been observed that fake news spreads 6 times faster on Twitter than the conventional news mediums. The social media companies harvest data which’s so easily available on their platform and then the complex AI programs run on the data to which reveals the person’s needs and desire. Facebook, which was very recently was asked to testify in front of a committee to explain its role in the alleged involvement of Russia in the US Presidential elections, is one of the biggest proponents of this business model. The audience sees the American family eventually getting caught up in the vortex of social media and resulting in a catastrophic finale.

In spite of the looming threat of a dystopian society, the tech experts still hope for better days as they believe, with the right amount of regulations and stringent laws about the usage of consumer data, the ‘Social Media’ threat can be thwarted. As the end credits roll, the experts share their thoughts about how to negate the danger. Some speak about regulating the use of social media among teenagers. The show ends as one of the experts suggests to unplug the device or even better, throw them away, saying – ‘It’s a beautiful world out there!’ 

‘The Social Dilemma’ now streaming on Netflix worldwide. Running time 94 minutes. Rated Universal for all viewers. 

The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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