The irony of me posting this review on Facebook not withstanding, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA is a scary, mostly fascinating look at just how far we've fallen down the rabbit hole of social media platforms.
Strongest in presenting on-camera interviews with many of the pioneers of the medium, its a fascinating 90 minute dive into WHY we cant put our phones down.
Tristan Harris is riveting as he details his college days and eventual role as the lead designer on Google. The lone voice raising issues about the downside of slightly rewiring our brains to crave the latest like or clickbait, Harris leads the present movement to take a step back and fundamentally change the way we interact on
line and more importantly, in person.
He's joined by a litany of platform legends, including Jeff Seibert from Twitter, Sandy Parakilis from Facebook and the hugely entertaining and dramatic founder of virtual reality Jason Lanier.
When the camera is on these folks, it's fascinating, involving and frankly alarming. Unfortunately the power of the film was greatly undermined for me by the second rate recreations of a typical family and the impact of Facebook etc on them. Other than Skyler Gisondo (the best part of that Vacation remake a couple years ago) as teenager Ben, the rest of the actors are pretty bad, giving off the feel of one of those "Dateline" knockoffs on the ID Cable Channel that make you realize how great Dateline really is....
I would have rather seen a one hour documentary of just the real inventors sharing their experiences and warnings than a b-movie level family drama.
Even worse, they decide to visualize three guys played by the same actor as the trilogy of angles of the AI platform. Imagine "Tron" visualized by a first grader and you'll be close. Those sequences are painfully bad.
That aside, there are some startling revelations from inventors on the impact of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc on who we are as human beings.
The sections detailing the incredible divide between the right and the left are especially powerful. For everytime you've said "Remember when we could all just have different opinions and talk intelligently about them and learn from each other without all this animosity...."
Well now you'll understand why those days may be gone for good. It also gives you a better understanding of why the youngest generation is so "triggered" by a different opinion than their own. If you grow up in a digital bubble in which no one thinks differently than you, BY DESIGN, how else would you react.
The statistics on what social media is doing to young people's confidence and rates of suicide are truly unsettling.
There are some powerful lessons and inspiring calls for change in Jeff Orlowski's doc. I just wish they weren't so dragged down by the movie-of-the-week drama bits.
The message gets an A, the entire film gets a C+.