A lot of us share the sentiment of wanting to be social and yet grapple with the universal social media addiction. It is no revelation that social media is as creepy as it is enjoyable, if not more. However, Jeff Orlowski’s documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” highlights that social media does not merely have negative elements to it. Rather, in its’ core, the industry is malicious, evil and destructive. Yet, the question begs to be asked: is it merely coincidence that Netflix is releasing this documentary right now, in the midst of a global pandemic, or is there some sort of ulterior motive involved?
Issues raised by the documentary
There is a sinister precision that seems to be coded into social media. The constant engagement from users allows data to be collected and used to further the trap of addiction. We are turned into easy prey, vulnerable to the motives of propagandists and advertisers. Social media is no longer about forming meaningful connections between – it is about companies monetizing on the insecurities of its’ users.
The documentary uses a compilation of brisk interviews, with Orlowski speaking with key players in the social media industry, presenting the startling data and cautionary testimonies. An addiction expert at Stanford University, Anna Lembke, relays how companies use the human need for interpersonal connection as an exploitation device. Additionally, the chilling allegation is made regarding the ethics behind Facebook: Russia never hacked the platform – they simply used it to their advantage.
Mental health and Social media
The statistics in the age of social media are hard to process, with mental illness being at an all-time high due to factors like a rise in economic insecurity. The unchecked capitalism that is rampant on social media only feeds fuel to the mental health fire. The culture that is propagated on these platforms is one of confusion, polarization, and destruction. Social media has evolved from being a two-sided dialogue between individuals to a platform for people to project their bias opinions, with zero intent for progress or conversation. There is an element of hopelessness that shrouds these platforms, enthused and encouraged by those that created them.
COVID-19 and the fight over our attention
A global survey was conducted in March 2020, when COVID-19 was just beginning to spread worldwide, forcing everyone to stay indoors. Naturally, many turned to their devices for entertainment, specifically their social media accounts and video streaming platforms. The survey revealed that there was a 51% increase in video streaming worldwide and a 44% increase in social media usage. Considering the state the world has been in, the response from Netflix would obviously be to capitalize on the fact that quite literally, everyone was stuck at home.
Is Netflix an innocent party?
Such a phenomenon has never been experienced before, and this provided the perfect opportune moment for video streaming services, such as Netflix, to exploit their platform. Their major competition, however, is social media. So, we raise the question of whether this documentary is completely unbiased, presenting an accurate representation of the evils behind social media? Or, perhaps there is the possibility that Netflix is playing with a pre-existent fear of social media, therefore eradicating the competition?