Netflix documentary exposes dangers of technology design


Jessica Guerrucci Editor-in-Chief

The trending Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” paints a horrifying, overdramatic, and slightly true, picture of how tech giants are controlling an entire generation of smartphone users, but in the end, it is unlikely to change anything.

The documentary, created by Jeff Orlowski, explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

The warning comes from former tech giants themselves, mostly featuring Tristan Harris, a former Google Design Ethicist who is now the co-founder for the Center for Humane Technology.

While people usually bash others for their smartphone addictions, this documentary takes a different approach, pointing to the tech giants as the ones to blame for how they design their platforms to be addictive.

This is true of course, especially with apps like TikTok where you do not even have to follow anyone to spend hours on the “For You” page which is carefully curated and made quite literally for the user. Every time you refresh there is a whole new stream of content.

While we hear from former top executives of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the documentary also shows a tech-addicted family, except for one girl who prides herself on not having a phone.

The dramatics come when they all lock up their phones for dinner and the youngest daughter smashes the glass container keeping her phone from her after what seems like two minutes.

This scene leads to the son’s phone screen being smashed and the mother saying she’ll buy him a new screen if he can go a week without his phone. Naturally, he fails this challenge, as would many people in the smartphone generation.

Upon having his phone taken away, he experiences withdraws, supporting the statement made saying “only two organization call their customers ‘users’- illegal drugs and software,” as they both are extremely addictive.

Some say the documentary is a wakeup call, but is it? It isn’t like the whole world is not aware that they are addicted. Very few people are going to boycott smartphones and take a stand against the tech industry.

People spend five or more hours a day on their phone and they are not necessarily bothered by it or some do not even realize it. While the film makes valid points about the addictive nature of these platforms, we all signed up for them, didn’t we?

While the documentary flashes images and stories told that highlight the negatives surrounding social media, it does not present a balanced case for the good side of social media and the connection that it can bring.

Solutions are proposed as to what these tech giants can do to make their products more ethical, but if it is all about money, and it is, nothing is going to change without actual laws or restrictions placed on these companies.

There certainly is a social dilemma, but let’s be realistic, no one is going to leave their smartphones behind.

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