(Illustration by Ben Mikail)
Brentwood School

Review: ‘The Social Dilemma’ reveals the harsh reality of social media

Nine hours per day.

According to a study from the Pew Research Center, the average teenager in the United States spends approximately nine hours per day on social media. To give you some perspective on this statistic, nine hours per day equates to 279 hours per month, and 3,285 hours per year.

That is about 137 consecutive days spent solely online.

A recently released Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma,” directed by Jeff Orlowski, follows the rise of screen time, specifically on social media. The documentary features interviews with former employees of large social media companies, and details the strategies these companies take to increase user activity, collect revenue and influence political viewpoints.

Throughout the film, the interviews are broken up with fictional scenes of a suburban family, allowing viewers to understand how big tech companies successfully manipulate their users. The fictionalized narrative helps display how companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can change entire lifestyles all through their social media platforms. 

The documentary also focuses on social media’s effect on teenagers, suggesting that the techniques used to addict users have a direct impact on depression and suicide rates. The film explores how companies can hook users, and how the increase in usage creates feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction and isolation.

At a first glance, ping notifications, whistles and bells may seem like normal parts of an app, but after a closer look, these features were specially designed to trigger dopamine rushes and create addiction. When users are without dopamine, they experience withdrawal, which then leads to returning to their social media for more. 

“The Social Dilemma” reveals the many ways humans are affected and influenced by social media. Despite the harsh message, the documentary assures its audience that raising awareness about the intentions of the industry will lead to a bright future.