Netflix's 'The Social Dilemma' Is Freaking People Out

Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ Is Freaking Everyone The Hell Out

Netflix/Youtube and Expsoure Labs/Netflix

The documentary explores the dangers of social networking in a new way

If you’ve not yet seen The Social Dilemma, you need to. If you’re paying attention, the documentary doesn’t necessarily blow your mind with new observations — silent family dinners, the negative impact on kid’s mental health, targeted advertising based on pages you like or articles you’ve read — but it does confirm one haunting detail. They knew. The companies and developers that created social networking knew the damage it was causing to our overall wellbeing and democracy, and they built it anyway.

The documentary-drama now available on Netflix explores the dangerous toll social networking has taken on our society, told by the tech experts and executives Jeff Orlowski gathered from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to explain to viewers exactly how it works — and why.

“Never before in history have 50 designers made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people,” says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. While this may seem like a, “What did you think they were doing?” sort of moment for some, when they explain the fact that the human brain has not, cannot, and never will evolve at the same pace as technology, it puts what we’re up against into frightening perspective.

Virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier seems to nail what happens when a “free” service run entirely off advertising dollars is allowed access to our daily lives. We become the product being sold. “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behavior that is the product. That is the only possible product.” Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff adds, “[Social media] is a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures… and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made Internet companies the richest companies.”