Social Dilemma: is Netflix’s new document worth watching?
“Social Dilemma” in short, is a document that explains how content display algorithms work on websites such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. In addition, the consequences of their actions are shown not only on individual users, but also on entire communities. To be honest, nothing in this document surprised me. However, it should be remembered that Netflix does not create this type of production for narrow groups of recipients, such as, for example, the marketing or advertising industry. Besides, “Social Dilemma” seems to be a successful production (the average rating on IMDb is 7.7 / 10), and by some it was even described as the most important document of the year. Is it right?
By the way, I should thank Netflix for this production. Its premiere coincided with the publication of my first book on social media, “ Understanding social media “, in which I discuss most of the threads present in “Social Dilemma”. I was also pleased with a few statements that I have been repeating like a mantra during trainings and classes at universities for several years. For example, our brains, unlike technology, do not develop. This leads to many dangerous situations such as the widening of the distance between the psychological “ideal me” and the “real me”. Another consequence is the change in the way information is assimilated and processed (mainly in terms of its quantity).
Why is “Social Dilemma” a good production?
It is noteworthy that the narrative follows three tracks. The first is the statements of specialists, including former employees of the largest social networking sites. We get to know their point of view, experience and opinions about the way social media currently works. To be honest, I can’t trust most of them. I have the impression that they reveal 1 percent of what they know. They do this because they don’t want to be sued by their former employers. The producer of “Social Dilemma” regales us with some strong quotes from famous people such as “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” by Arthur C. Clarke.
On the second lane, we have a short family history of three children, two of whom are heavily dependent on social networking sites and cannot part with their phones. I also devoted a separate chapter to this topic in “ Understand social media “.
The third track of the story is the story of the room, in which we see an avatar of one of the children of the above-mentioned family and 3 clones of the same person which illustrate the artificial intelligence deciding what content the user will receive, when and in what order. The task of the clones (played by Vincent Kartheiser known from, among others, “Mad Mena”) is to keep the user with a smartphone for as long as possible and sell his attention at the highest possible price at an advertising auction.
And again I met with wild satisfaction because the aspect of how much time the user spends on one post is very much exposed. I would like to remind you that on Facebook we spend 1.8 seconds on average on posting on mobile and 2.5 seconds on desktop. The fact that this indicator is as important as likes and comments have also been repeated for many during trainings on the preparation of content in social media.
The act of telling the story in this way makes it quite enjoyable to watch. Anyway, producer Jeff Orlowski thought from the very beginning that a documentary with talking heads alone was a very low bar and he wanted to do something extra. Undoubtedly, he succeeded.
And this is where the pluses of this production end. I do not think it will contribute significantly to reducing the time we spend on social networking sites. Especially since the generation of people thinks that… the problem of addiction to social media does not concern them! Ba! They are firmly convinced that if they wanted to, they could give up using Facebook, Instagram or TikTok.
Why is “Social Dilemma” a bad production?
What hurts the most is the fact that the focus was solely on the negative impact of social networking sites, presenting them as the source of all evil in the world. Of course, this is a very one-sided narrative that I do not accept internally. This is a much more complex topic that has more shades of gray than the entire Gray face saga. The solution is not to give up social networking sites, but to use them skillfully. If this topic interests you, I encourage you to… read my book 😛
Documents on Netflix are very biased. All it takes is a bit of critical thinking (I have a lot of it) and the ability to associate facts to see it. A document about the beauty industry attacks China as a producer of counterfeit cosmetics of famous brands. After seeing fast food material, you catch yourself thinking that they’re not as bad as they seem. Netflix’s docs are hypothesized to spread pro-American propaganda. In “Social Dilemma” the emphasis is on Facebook. It was this website that “served” the election won by Donald Trump. And suddenly, less than two months before the next election, a document appears that wants to convince how bad Facebook is and what a terrible manipulation tool it is. Coincidence?
Much is said in the document about algorithms that tailor content to our liking. It’s strange that it never rains in this context … Netflix, which uses AI itself or A / B tests on its users to not only suggest content, but also create it! He haunted the cauldron to the pot… I hate hypocrisy, and Social Dilemma is like a volcanic eruption in that respect. Besides, one more brand – Amazon – has NOT been hit and I have a hard time believing that this is a mere oversight.
Still, it’s worth spending this hour and a half to watch “Social Dilemma”. It is also worth recommending this document to people who are not in the industry and do not know the inside out. I am not convinced that this document will change the world, but it does not hurt to try. Definitely many people will provide new information on social media.
And after watching, you click on the link below and order my book “ Understand social media “, where I do not try to political correctness, I do not write hypotheses, I honestly discuss the impact of social networking sites.