The Social Dilemma, a new Netflix documentary that hit the platform last week and originally premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, explores the birth of social media and its effects on society as a whole. The production goes deep into the subject, analyzing how the tool is being used politically and culturally, giving rise to a slew of mental health issues and conspiracy theories, among other much-chronicled consequences.
So poignant is the film's investigation into the topic that folks around the world have reported high levels of anxiety and disbelief after watching it. The documentary has also given rise to critical think pieces and reviews that boast headlines the likes of The Unfair Fight of The People vs The Algorithm, A Modern-Age Horror Film Documentary That Will Make You Rethink the Apps on Your Phone and Unplug and Run. Clearly, the production hit home.
Although social media's deep roots and aftershocks have been well documented in connection to recent election cycles and shifting adolescent behavior, the documentary goes a step further by focusing on the experts who, according to Netflix, "are sounding the alarm on their own creations." Social media gurus that have worked for the likes of Google, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, among others, share their preoccupations with the very platforms that they've spent years trying to perfect.
Ironically, viewers that were left shaken up by the information they uncovered have been taking to social media to voice their panic and frustration.
"It's pretty ironic to make this post via social media but I implore everyone to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix," writes user Blair Albright on Twitter. "It is terrifying when we are shown just how much we are being manipulated by our phones and social media. We are all truly a mouse on a wheel."
Nick LaLone echoes Albright's sentiments: "Some good points: 'we designed ourselves into this corner and so we need to design our way out!'," he tweets. "And those saying it are the same folks who did the designing and now run design ethics nonprofits."
Whether the collective panic will actually lead to a change in user behavior or, perhaps, a shift in the way various apps collect and use data is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: as useful and exciting and addicting as social media is, there is a dark side to it all that we won't be able to ignore for much longer.