I’ve decided to branch out with my reviews. I’m still reading books consistently and jotting down my thoughts, but after watching (and feeling sick to my stomach from) The Social Dilemma, I figured I would share my take.
As the communications manager for a university, a large part of my job involves managing social media accounts. There are definitely moments when the tasks are fun. It’s awesome to share pretty photos of campus, encouragements and positive news. However, there are plenty of moments when having to be the Wizard behind the screen in Oz is downright disheartening and stressful — and the primary “service” my team is trying to promote is getting a valuable education. Should be simple and harmless, right?
While The Social Dilemma focused more on the negative effects on social media consumers —namely individuals being manipulated by a combination of human engineers and artificial intelligence — what struck me the most was how easy it is to influence attitudes and behaviors with a click and a sponsorship fee as low as $10.
Now, as a social media professional, I have paid for advertising campaigns on behalf of the university and have talked strategic copy until my head was spinning. The idea of paying to promote an educational experience that I truly value and believe in never seemed outside of moral boundaries, even when we chose to target “look alike audiences.”
But this type of thinking is exactly what The Social Dilemma hones in on. Every single one of the many former executive officers of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. confessed that they are now embarrassed that the capabilities of the platforms they proudly spent years of their professional careers developing have evolved into monsters. The scariest part: no one is sure what social media is actually capable of doing to the human psyche at this point. As one exec reflected, we’re apparently stuck in our own hellish version of The Truman Show.
Overall, I enjoyed this documentary — as much I could without a good dosage of self-loathing as a user of all major social media platforms. My two critiques: I could have done away with some of the dramatizations and I was left wanting some resolution. While there are literally millions of “responsible parties” contributing to the mess, it is hard to pinpoint who the actual bad guys are in this dystopia. Should I completely delete Facebook? Do I start a petition to tax Instagram for storing my information? IS IT OK TO KEEP MY TIKTOK OR NOT? None of my questions were fully answered. None of the interviewees seemed to even know how to move forward with a more positive future.
I think this documentary is a conversation starter and should probably be watched by everyone, everywhere. The challenge: try watching without scrolling through your accounts. Can you do it?
This documentary may be for you if you also like: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, (or you’re looking for a good reason to delete your accounts); documentaries; moral compass discussions; conspiracy theories.