The Social Dilemma is a 2020 American docudrama directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis. The film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, how its design is meant to nurture an addiction, its use in politics, its impact on mental health (including the mental health of adolescents and rising teen suicide rates), and its role in spreading conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate and aiding groups such as flat-earthers.
- Tristan Harris as himself
- Aza Raskin as himself
- Justin Rosenstein as himself
- Shoshana Zuboff as herself
- Jaron Lanier as himself
- Tim Kendall as himself
- Rashida Richardson as herself
- Renee DiResta as herself
- Anna Lembke as herself
- Roger McNamee as himself
- Guillaume Chaslot as himself
The film features interviews with former Google design ethicist and Center for Humane Technology co-founder Tristan Harris, his fellow Center for Humane Technology co-founder Aza Raskin, Asana co-founder and Facebook‘s like button co-creator Justin Rosenstein, Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff, former Pinterest president Tim Kendall, AI Now director of policy research Rashida Richardson, Yonder director of research Renee DiResta, Stanford University Addiction Medicine Fellowship program director Anna Lembke, and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. The interviews are cut together with dramatizations starring actors Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, and Vincent Kartheiser, which tell the story of a teenager’s social media addiction.
The Social Dilemma premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix on September 9, 2020.
A Financial Times review said the film “carefully details the skyrocketing levels of depression among children and teenagers; the flat-earthers and white supremacists; the genocide in Myanmar; the Covid misinformation; [and] the imperilling of objective truth and social disintegration“. The New York Times said that the film features “conscientious defectors from companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram [who] explain that the perniciousness of social networking platforms is a feature, not a bug”. A review in the Los Angeles Times‘s Kevin Crust stated that “while most people are aware that they’re being mined for data while on these sites, few realize how deep the probe goes […] if you think the trade-off is merely getting targeted ads for your favorite sneakers, you are in for a big shock”.
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