Arts

The Beautiful Horror of “The Social Dilemma”

“It’s not about technology being the existential threat. It’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society, and the worst in society being the existential threat. If technology creates mass chaos, outrage, instability, lack of trust in each other, loneliness, alienation, more polarization, more election-hacking, more populism, more distraction and inability to focus on the real issues—that’s just society.”

 

Featuring former executives at tech companies such as Google and Instagram, “The Social Dilemma” explores the impacts of social media on both individuals and society at large. Though lacking in concrete methods to address the dominance of social media, “The Social Dilemma” is an incredible and thought-provoking experience for both its beautiful direction and comprehensive look at the influence of social media. 

The movie begins by discussing the dangers of social media, transitioning smoothly from topic to topic. The interviews include the voices of an addiction expert, the former director of monetization at Facebook, a former senior director of product at Twitter, a founding father of virtual reality, and many more. The words of these experts are carefully woven into a cohesive story. Similar to a horror movie, there is a creeping feeling as all the various effects of social media seem to grow more and more uncontrollable. 

This feeling is brought to life with the film’s visuals and soundtrack. The effects were a combination of deep bass, heartbreaking instrumentals, and sustained sounds—creating a dystopian aura in line with the message of the movie. On top of that, the colors of the shots are intentionally muted and dark, evoking a sense of severity. Every shot is crisp, dynamic, and composed with care.

The film is directed in a way that brings the subject matter directly into the lives of the audience. It starts with sounds of the interviewer behind the camera clearing their throat, with the interviewee staring at the camera and talking to “you.” The film ends with descriptions of Silicon Valley technology’s effects on the current Covid-19 pandemic. Even the staged parts of the movie seem realistic to a certain extent. The artificial intelligence (AI) behind social media is depicted as three men discuss tactics to keep a teenage boy on his phone. Although largely dramatized, this scene instantiates what is essentially the cold and calculating “thought process” of social media AI and its subtle manipulation of users. 

By constantly addressing “you,” the film allows the viewer to reflect on their own behaviors and assess them for signs of addiction. By the end of the movie, viewers realize that the individual must conduct drastic change to break free from the stranglehold of social media. The only solution the film provides, however, is to generate large-scale, legislative changes to prevent tech companies from treating humans as numbers or statistics. For teenagers already ensconced in a social media-driven world, social media addiction is not so easily overcome. The movie fails to provide a more concrete plan of action for individual impact, and instead instructs viewers to stay optimistic for developers to fix the mess they have created. 

“The Social Dilemma” is a 4.5/5-star movie and will leave you feeling like you’ve just watched something reminiscent of a horror movie. While it does not provide much on how viewers can proceed and effect change, the film is an experience packed with valuable information and precautions that may save you much more time than the 90 minutes you spent watching it.