The Social Dilemma Parent Guide
The documentary side of this hybrid film is extraordinarily well done, but you can fast forward right through the dramatic segments.
Parent Movie Review
When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook as a social media platform for Harvard students in 2004, no one could have foreseen the monumental social changes to come. The Social Dilemma explores the role social media has played in altering society and the impact it has on us as individuals. Interviews with technology experts, industry insiders, and whistleblowers help to explain the complex ins and outs of a colossal system with far-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, a drama plays out with Ben (Skyler Gisondo) and his family, as these programmed elements of social media take their toll on him and the lives of those around him.
The documentary side of this film is extraordinarily well made, primarily due to the credentials of the experts the filmmakers chose to interview. These people, in many cases, worked to develop the tools and programs they’re talking about, or have done serious academic research into them. They have also done an excellent job of putting things in easily understandable terms – 90 minutes of technical jargon wouldn’t help anybody, and the simple language used here makes this impossible to misunderstand.
The film also clearly links the goals of the corporations to the results of their platforms. It’s a strong reminder that, regardless of the intent of developers or corporations, these apps aren’t built to be enjoyable or fun: they’re designed to be addictive so that corporations can create profiles about our individual preferences and then sell us to advertisers. Advertisers with their own economic or political agendas, who have no real accountability to anybody, but are willing to pay these massive tech companies to influence our behavior.
The drama side of the film, however, seems completely unnecessary. It feels like those bad mid-90s made-for-school PSA’s about bullying or sexual health – the kind of movie that just begs you to take a nap and wait for lunch. Perhaps the least effective part is the dramatization of algorithms which control Ben’s social media experience – three identical men standing in a high-tech room, dictating what he sees. It feels fake and childish, completely at odds with the tone of the documentary.
This is a worthwhile watch, but you can safely fast-forward through the drama. It’s an important reminder that we are being commodified and sold, and that we have to take control over our digital lives. This isn’t a film that demands that you go and delete Facebook – although that is a strong recommendation. It gives us an idea of what’s being done in the hopes that we collectively demand change. How you respond to that information is up to you…but the consequences aren’t.Directed by Jeff Orlowski. Starring Skyler Gisondo, Kara Kayward, and Vincent Kartheiser. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release September 9, 2020. Updated October 29, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Social Dilemma
The Social Dilemma
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Social Dilemma rated PG-13? The Social Dilemma is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic elements, disturbing/violent images and suggestive material.
Violence: There is news footage of mass shootings, genocide, and terror attacks. Individuals are shown being violently pushed and shoved at a political protest.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are two uses of scatological profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated October 29, 2020
The Social Dilemma Parents' Guide
Is there a way to balance the benefits of social media with its hazards? How has social media impacted your life? How do you think it has affected your world view? Do you bother to independently fact-check information you find on social media?
ProCon.org: Are Social Networking Sites God for Our Society?
Lifewire: The Pros and Cons of Social Networking
Psychology Today: Addicted to Social Media?
Psychology Today: Social Media and Mental Health