Documentary

The Social Dilemma

The new documentary is pure moral panic from start to finish.

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During this moment of intense tech skepticism, the conversation about the downsides of social media could benefit from nuance and expertise. The Social Dilemma—a Netflix documentary about technology addiction—has plenty of the latter but almost none of the former. The result is a paranoid film that treats virtually all people as helpless puppets of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google head Sundar Pichai, and the nefarious systems they oversee.

Though this is a documentary, it attempts to tell a representative, fictional story, casting the eccentric actor Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men's Pete Campbell) as the voice of a nefarious algorithm that has brainwashed a typical American teenager. These scenes are uniformly bad, making Reefer Madness look subtle by comparison.

The rest of the film, which consists of conversations with various former tech employees, is little better. Most interviewees are wannabe whistleblowers with an inflated regard for their tech accomplishments. They think the systems they invented are so awesomely powerful, intelligent, and addictive that the human brain can't possibly contend. It's pure moral panic from start to finish.

A lone voice of reason in the film, the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, suggests that parents can address some tech issues by talking to their kids about social media and limiting their use of smartphones at night. Unsurprisingly, this practical and nonhysterical advice is relegated to the closing credits.

NEXT: Philip Guston Now

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    1. It is great that Netflix produced a documentary about the detrimental effects of social media but remember, viewing unlimited forms of pornography is healthy and beneficial to your sex life. Only neo-Nazi, white supremacists oppose the unending consumption of pornography or so I read in Rolling Stone magazine.

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    1. I’m sure these trans identifying, WOKE zoomers are happy with their “social” media lives and not just roleplaying for attention brownie points.

  2. Gotta keep the fear level up, so the Progressives can claim to be protecting you with their new laws.

    1. As a progressive, I like to Netflix and shill (if she affirmatively consents).

  3. Hard pass.

    1. People say I’m a dick; guess I’m always either hard up, pissed off, or in the hole.

  4. I’m sure the panic over technology addiction started with medieval peasants anguished that their kids were learning to read and walking about with their noses stuck in a book. Photographs, the telegraph and the telephone, moving pictures, radio and TV – they all had the adults shaking their heads about kids today.

  5. Twitter really is an outrage machine, though. If you created a platform for the sole purpose of channeling people into outrage mobs, it would look a lot like Twitter.

    1. At least Facebook has recognized that not all bigoted speech is equal. Hate speech is bigotry AND power. Anti-white hate speech isn’t technically as bad as anti-BIPOC or anti-Semitic speech because BIPOC and Jews are powerless compared to those white Aryan monsters.

      1. Yep. Just the other day I was on my way home from the white male privilege meeting and stopped at Safeway to get a few things. I was daydreaming about oppressing some hot mixed-race women and so started to actually pay for my stuff, even though no darkies were around. Silly me–LOL!

    2. Twitter went to hell when they increased the character limit. When you had to be pithy with your snark and your putdowns it forced you (1/2)

      1. to be creative and funny and smart, not like today’s Twitter. (2/2)

      2. Twitter did a better job killing journalism. Every other online article is about somebody “slamming” or “clapping back” at some other jerk off on the platform.

    3. The human brain (and mouth) is an outrage machine. From the earliest caveman hysteria through Salem and Nazi Germany, people achieved extraordinary levels of mob stupid without Twitter.

      1. Right. The true outrage machine helped cavemen survive truly anxious times, lead to Salem’s founding, and helped (re)build pre-war Nazi Germany.

        Twitter is more like a feedback amplifier plugged into the outrage machine.

    4. Ken agreed. I think it’s the worst one currently.

    5. Twitter is the single most aptly named of all the social media services. 99% of their users are twits.

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  7. If there has been one consistent aspect of human existence that has remained true throughout my 62 years of life, it is this: Whatever becomes popular with teenagers immediately becomes the subject of moral panic among adults.

    1. *whipes tear* I miss my Pokémon cards.

      1. kids heck I miss my bazooka bubble gum wrapper cartoons

      2. Digimon! Digital monsters! Digimon are the champions!

    2. Whatever becomes popular with teenagers immediately becomes the subject of moral panic among adults.

      I can’t remember which comedian it was but they pointed out that old people are always the native peoples of current reality and the youth are always colonizers comforting them with smallpox blankets.

  8. Why do kids need a smart anyway? Then again, why do most adults ‘need’ a smart phone? I don’t have one myself., check my emails and news and such on my laptop after work. That saves me money I can use for important things, like good lager, porter or whiskey.

    1. Owning a $1,000 iPhone is a status symbol

  9. Sorry Robby, one only need to look at the Kavanaugh coverage by you and ENB to understand the malevolence of social media and the brainwashed teenager (ok millenial) accusations are true. Not one fact you didn’t dredge up from the most partisan shrill attack outlet. The accusation was true and gained more credibility to you as more outlandish accusations were made.

    Then there is the suppression of the Hunter Biden story to install your preferred manchurian candidate. And yet you still see nothing amiss with social media today..because you are one of the brainwashed teens.

  10. FFS “We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed” ~ toddler trump BYE DON…………………………………………………………. READ MORE

  11. “…The result is a paranoid film that treats virtually all people as helpless puppets of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google head Sundar Pichai, and the nefarious systems they oversee…”

    A clarion call for the government to step in and save all of us, right?!

  12. Right there are no bad effects from social media just like taking drugs has no side effects or addiction. And all immigration is just so special we should allow it freely. Liberaltarians are hilariously wrong most of the time. Sadly the Republican Party listened to you cretins for far too long.

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  13. That’s why I didn’t watch it.

    1. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll wait until I can watch it in a background tab at 2X speed.

  14. So I could be like those idiots if I were to give up books for teevee, wallow in Faecepuke and believe the Gyugle call? Mmmmm… I think that’s a “decline”…

  15. FFS. The plutocrat worship is deep here on Reason.

    The nanosecond man realized we could get a dog to salivate on cue, the meaning of coercion changed. Then man understood that man is an animal – and in fact can be easily manipulated using not reason or frontal lobe but instincts and our lizard brain. And for the last 100 years or so, man has used that knowledge to manipulate man en masse.

    Edward Bernays etc only got their FIRST experience in that with government in WW1 and the Creel commission. Then did the identical thing afterwards with business clients – eg getting women to smoke in the 1920’s. And in fact it is the private sector that has moved that knowledge of mass manipulation forward the most since then via advertising and PR.

    Why is it that libertarians seem to be oblivious to this? Sadly it is KNOWLEDGE – not gummint – that is the source of the problem here. It’s not unique. Knowledge applied without ethics can often be a problem – and those with both knowledge and power almost never have ethics.

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    1. “the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, suggests that parents can address some tech issues by talking to their kids about social media and limiting their use of smartphones at night.”

      Did you know that parents, and adults in general, are just as susceptible to these addictions as children are?

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