“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software” — Edward Tufte, from ‘The Social Dilemma’
And just like that, ‘The Social Dilemma’ puts out there terrifying details of what psychologists have been saying since ages – that social media is like cocaine. Once we’ve fallen under its spell, there’s no getting out.
Social media is abuzz with praise and appreciation for the new Netflix docu-drama film that, ironically, deconstructs in devastating detail the devil called social media. ‘The Social Dilemma’ is Jeff Orlowski’s new documentary film, streaming on Netflix, that focuses on how social media is a tool used by tech companies to control our minds. And almost everyone is raving about the film. Our very own Siddharth Malhotra gave a shout out to the film, adding that it’s a film everyone must watch.
The Social Dilemma talks about how people have increasingly become dependent on social media for things that were earlier found in abundance at home, from loved ones, family and friends — acceptance, approval, unconditional support, endorsement. But social media has ensured that the approval of loved ones doesn’t matter any more. What matters is the number of ‘Likes’, ‘Comments’, ‘Retweet’ and ‘Shares’ we get.
Interspersed between interviews and chats in the documentary, is the dramatised story of a suburban family, and the effect social media has on their lives. How the lure for ‘Likes’ leads to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and depression. The dramatised story is humorous but eye-opening.
Speaking out in The Social Dilemma, Justin Rosenstein, the engineer designer who spearheaded the invention of the Like button says that all they wanted out of it was to “spread positivity and love in the world”. No one could foresee that the ‘Like’ button would become a source of depression in the younger population.
The Social Dilemma also addresses the menace of the spread of fake news — fuelled entirely by social media. “Fake news on twitter spreads six times faster than true news”, says one of the professionals who agreed to talk on camera to the makers of The Social Dilemma. The film weaves a terrifying scenario through interviews with professionals that formerly worked at top social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
The most prominent voice in The Social Dilemma is of Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. “When you look around you, it feels like the world is going crazy,” he says. “Is this normal or have we all fallen under some spell?” The documentary vividly explores how social media has caused a blurring of fact and fiction, to the extent that we no longer know “who we are and what we believe”.
“Surveillance capitalism” is a term that crops up several times in The Social Dilemma. And how apt it is. It perfectly describes how we’ve fallen prey to the subtle game plan to control our thoughts, wants and needs, through our inherent makeup as social beings.
The Social Dilemma says ominously, “If you aren’t paying for it then you are the product”. That’s what social media companies have reduced us to – a product – of their making, to be used at their will and discretion.
‘The Social Dilemma’ is streaming on Netflix. Watch it now!
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