The Social Dilemma: This New Netflix Documentary Points To The Dark Side Of Social Networks

The film, which is highly critical of the web giants, is all the more credible as it contains testimonies from key players in the industry.

We tweet, we like, and we share— but what are the consequences of our growing dependence on social media? As digital platforms increasingly become a lifeline to stay connected, Silicon Valley insiders reveal how social media is reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen.

Risk of addiction, depression and increased anxiety, manipulation and misinformation... The downsides of social networks are regularly pointed out and we often come back to these issues in our articles. But in The Social Dilemma, Jeff Orlowski goes much further. The idea behind the documentary is very clear: these malfunctions are not simple accidents, but rather the result of an assumed willingness to manipulate user behavior.

The algorithms of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Google are therefore designed to provide the human brain with the necessary dose of dopamine to make it addicted. On the platforms, everything is done to keep users' attention as long as possible and generate maximum advertising revenue. Notifications, likes, tags and other recommendations always keep us on tenterhooks without us always being fully aware of it.

The Social Dilemma is a powerful exploration of the disproportionate impact that a relatively small number of engineers in Silicon Valley have over the way we think, act, and live our lives. The film deftly tackles an underlying cause of our viral conspiracy theories, teenage mental health issues, rampant misinformation and political polarization, and makes these issues visceral, understandable, and urgent. Through a unique combination of documentary investigation and entertaining narrative drama, Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes have exposed the invisible in a manner that is both enlightening and harrowing as they disrupt the disrupters by unveiling the hidden machinations behind everyone’s favorite social media and search platforms.

Political radicalization and loss of self-esteem

This analysis is not in itself a great revelation, but the comments made are all the more credible as they come from the designers of these algorithms. Former employees of Facebook, Google, Instagram and Pinterest provide some fascinating insights. Some say they were not always aware of what they were doing. For example, one of them, who worked on setting up likes on Facebook, says he only wanted to bring love. It is a cruel irony that this feature is now being criticized for its consequences on the mental health of adolescents.

Very well designed, The Social Dilemma alternates between a documentary part and fictional scenes showing the consequences of social networks on an American family. We can see how the latter can be a real problem in the construction of a young teenager or even lead to a form of political radicalization in some people.

The whole thing is therefore overwhelming for the giants of the web, but several speakers nevertheless remain hopeful. Indeed, it seems that good regulation is still possible and allows the positive effects of the platforms to be maintained, while pushing back the negative effects. Others, on the contrary, advocate very energetic measures, a dismantling or even a ban, and do not believe for a second that the solution can come from very large companies, too busy accumulating profits to achieve a paradigm shift.

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