I have such strong admiration for Tristan Harris and The Center for Human Technology. His Capital Hill testimonies are succinct and smart. I always feel enlightened after listening to him. I’ve used his 2017 Ted Talk after student presentations to spark dialogue and it works. Hats off to everyone who, I’m sure, worked thousands of hours to bring The Social Dilemma to life.
“This documentary about the perils of social media and big tech is flawed but essential viewing.” – Danny Leigh
It’s not perfect, but everyone should watch this film (assuming you still have Netflix)! Even if you decided to cancel Netflix due to Cuties, just create a new, 30-day free account and watch it without handing over any money.
The Social Dilemma does many things well.
- It shocked us into listening. You mean there’s a digital voodoo doll of me that lives in servers everywhere? Wait, there’s a 3-headed, sociopath math equation directing my every tap with carefully selected content? About 6 different movies just became horrifyingly real.
As Rajvi Desai said at The Swaddle:
Essentially, The Social Dilemma told us what we already knew…Then why did we find it so shocking? The docudrama put a mirror in front of us, a space that is otherwise almost always occupied by screens.
- It’s creating a ton of awesome public dialogue. Anything to keep the pressure on trillion dollar companies that think they’re untouchable. Yea. We’re all coming for you.
- It’s something that families can all watch together. Parents and teens are having productive dialogue. I love this.
The Social Dilemma also left some gaps.
- It lacked research. It’s not a documentary. It’s a commentary from a lot of kinda-remorseful, mega-rich, tech entrepreneurs.
- It was mostly interviews with kinda-remorseful, mega-rich tech entrepreneurs. I couldn’t really relate to anyone who spoke. I’m not in any of their circles. Also, none of them really seemed truly broken to their core that some of their inventions have contributed to the destruction of people’s lives. Just “kinda” regretful.
- It lacked balance. Listen, I can’t stand that Zuckerberg sells my information 8 times a day. But that’s nothing compared to the rage I feel about how interactive computing platforms exhibit wanton disregard for the safety and protection of the millions of children using their platforms. We each have our lanes – Tristan lives in the “attention economy” lane, while I live in the “child exploitation” lane. I’m just always going to believe that the exploitation of our young people (70M pieces of child sexual content submitted to NCMEC in 2019) is an issue that warrants 100x more attention than the monetization of our attention. Privacy and protection must be possible.
- It made parents look like powerless bystanders. The young girl smashed the locked plastic container with a crescent wrench while wearing safety goggles and mom and dad did nothing. Insert my “Oh, no you didn’t!” face.
- It didn’t offer a roadmap forward. It was 93 minutes of beat-down doom and one good idea to tax the flow of data. There has to be more, right?
At around the 3 minute mark, the interviewer starts asking many of the main players, “Is there a problem and what is the problem?” And none of them are able to answer the question. This really bothered me. Any good consultant will tell you that clearly defining the problem is central to moving forward. I felt like they maybe did this for some sort of dramatic effect but I think it sucked credibility out of the film.
So, what’s the real problem?
- A rampant lack of accountability? (Definitely)
- A bad business model? (Probably)
- Lack of our own self-control? (We have to own some of this, right?)
- Misinformed, over-protective parenting? (Guilty)
- A complicated intersection of all of the above and more? (Maybe)
Desai goes on to say:
The Social Dilemma shocks and frightens, but doesn’t do much else. Maybe it’s this feeling that we carry forward with us to start having the conversations that actually matter.
I love the conversations that this movie is starting! For the sake of all of us, I just hope some really smart people step forward to finish them. Soon.
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director. Manage marketing efforts for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I have a relentless drive to help families use technology well.