Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma takes a hard look at social media and how it is changing the way we live. With testimony from experts who worked at various social media cornerstones, the film examines how social media takes advantage of its users and distorts the world around them as it delves into social media affecting behavior and how someone can take advantage of the complex algorithms to affect change on a global scale.

Director Jeff Orlowski's documentary is a warning about how social media is changing us in both expected and unexpected ways as greed and capitalism continue to push development forward into even more questionable territories. How social media apps play on emotion to keep you online and play into reinforcing your own beliefs in creating separate clusters of people with their own facts, how social media has raised a generation who tie their own self worth to the likes of strangers online whose suicide rate is astronomically higher than the generation before it, and the idea of how easily these apps can be used to take advantage of the misinformed for nefarious purposes such as changing the outcome of an election are all truly frightening.

The film's structure isn't helped by a series of dramatizations playing out the effects discussed on a family and their friends along with other actors standing in for the various algorithms inside a phone. I'm not sure if Orlowski believed his call to action wasn't strong enough without these skits, if he just wanted an emotional push (not unlike how social media attempts to manipulate their users), or if the filmmaker believed the information was too hard to understand without them (it's not), but the effect takes away from rather than enhances the information dispersed over the documentary turning it into an episode of Unsolved Mysteries and complicating what is otherwise an engaging documentary with an important story to tell.

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