SOCIAL DILEMMA Examines Nefarious Ways Big Tech Controls Its User Base
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: THE SOCIAL DILEMMA is nominated for the Faith and Freedom Award® for Movies. Find out who wins in our Movieguide®’s Movies That Inspire program on The REELZ Channel on Easter Sunday, April 4, at 4 p.m. ET. The following is a portion of our review. For the full review, click here.
THE SOCIAL DILEMMA mixes investigative style interviews from some major Big Tech whistleblowers and dramatized scenes of life in an average American household to reveal social media’s effect on society and the dangerous predicament of the future. THE SOCIAL DILEMMA is a compelling and timely inside look at how Big Tech companies and social media outlets can manipulate and harm children and adults, but some depictions of riots and discussion of suicide warrant caution for older children.
The movie begins by introducing a series of former executives who helped build or worked with tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now these execs are speaking up against many of the adverse effects of Big Tech business models.
The movie cuts to the dramatized narrative of life in an average American household. These scenes are interspersed with real-life news snippets and parts of a speech given by Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist. The opening credits continue to roll with news segments covering riots, mobs, bombings, and the novel coronavirus pandemic until the title card appears. Finally, the focus returns to Harris.
Harris posits that there is a problem with the tech industry but is struggling to find one singular source. The movie then launches into the time Harris spent at Google. He relays the story of Google’s services’ ethical implications and how, although his concerns were well-reviewed and agreed with, nothing ever happened. There was no follow-up to address his concerns.
Tim Kendall, former Facebook executive and ex-president of Pinterest, is then introduced. He talks about the early days of Big Tech and how everyone was fascinated with Google’s business model. He explains that all the initial social media business plans were about monetization.
Cut to the dramatized narrative, and the audience is introduced to Ben. Ben is a high school boy addicted to his phone. The movie explores how phone and social media addiction play a role in children’s psychology.
Although the benefits of the ever-growing tech industry are discussed, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA provides an in-depth analysis, both on an individual level and a societal level, of the harmful outcomes of Big Tech business plans that treat people as a commodity rather than human beings. Ethical questions are raised. The movie makes an effort to provide answers to these questions on how to mitigate the adverse effects. However, it stresses that it could be a long time before people wake up to the issue and actually do something about it.
THE SOCIAL DILEMMA is a timely, compelling inside look at some of the nefarious ways, or even involuntary ways, Big Tech controls its user base through the provisions like instant information and search engines. The movie’s dramatic portion sometimes distracts from the interviews and cheapens the movie’s message. However, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA still presents a revealing perspective on Big Tech and the addictive qualities that social media has on many children and adults. It provides several scientifically backed solutions to slow the tide of social media’s negative physiological and psychological effects. Due to some depictions of riots, a couple references to evolution, an obscenity, and a discussion of suicide in THE SOCIAL DILEMMA, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children.