Social Dilemma Review

October 26, 2020

Social Media has given rise to many positive changes in the world by keeping people across the globe connected. For this reason, many powerful movements have been able to spread. However, the new Netflix documentary, the Social Dilemma, showcases how there is a vast amount of unintentional, yet dangerous consequences in the social arena. The technology people often think brings humanity together also exploits them.

Exploitative Social Media Algorithms

The documentary aims to make everyone aware of these issues through the perspective of a family in the film. This allows viewers to see how the algorithms, which are used by social media companies, harm people. The influence of political division is seen through the son, Ben, who is heavily influenced by the content the algorithm is feeding him. In the youngest daughter, Isla, it is seen how it can harm mental health. Lastly, the algorithm is seen as stunting the family’s relationships with each other.

If the family was not on the screen, then former employees from tech companies were being interviewed. From this side of the film, algorithmic problems like attention extraction economy, surveillance capitalism, and targeted advertising were discussed.

The film lays out how these ethical dilemmas gain from the monetization of social interaction, the widespread sneaky surveillance of daily internet ventures, and the tracking of individual’s behaviors online for advertisement.

What is the scary reality the documentary reveals? This information is tallied into what is called the “digital model” of each person. Each media company stores the data it collects from people into a coded structure of a human. Freaked out? If not, then here is another disturbing revelation. The algorithm plays with this model like a scientific experiment, becoming more accurate along the way.

This is symbolized through the “virtual avatar” of Ben and three men, representing the algorithm. As the film proceeds, these men send different forms of content to the avatar, Ben’s phone, to ultimately drive ad sales and keep him engaged.

A Critical Question

At one point in the documentary, one of the men asks if this is good for Ben. It was a genius and ironic way for the film to bring up a major point. Algorithms do not care about people. They do not have emotions. Algorithms simply are codes that emulate human intelligence, and they are only as good as the person who programmed them. Individuals are often led to believe algorithms are worthy of trust because of their neutrality. The Netflix film reveals there is a hidden bias, creating multiple dilemmas.

In the end, the Social Dilemma leaves you with a question? How do we, collectively, solve the issues without limiting people’s rights? Organizations like the Institute of Digital HumanityThe Social Dilemma, and many more have been advocating for digital ethics. Digital ethics may seem small; however, it encompasses more than what meets the eye. It culminates the idea for society to have an ethical, professional, and clinically-sound online experience on digital mediums.

Overall, the film intriguingly presented these questions and research. It is obvious why the documentary has become so popularized on the very social media platforms it’s fighting. If you have not watched it yet, then do it. The time you invest in it will be worth it.

The Netflix movie that has caused people to dive deep into digital ethics