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5 Untrue Things You've Heard About "The Social Dilemma"

1. It’s about social media.

Yes, it’s about social media, but it’s not ONLY about social media. Many of the concerns exposed are about Google and other services that aren’t strictly social media networks. That’s important.

2. It takes place “in the dark underbelly of Silicon Valley…”

According to the film’s description on sundance.org, the film is set “in the dark underbelly of Silicon Valley.”

Silicon Valley has a dark underbelly just like any other major urban area. But the film isn’t set there, nor is it even about it. It’s mostly set in hip-looking minimalist interiors that have been lit to make the interview subjects look good.

The fictional story that’s woven between the interviews is set in a lovely suburban home. So, maybe it’s set in your golden retriever’s dark fluffy “chubby-wubby undewbellwee?”

3. The film implores you to delete Facebook.

Whether or not you should delete Facebook is an open question. But the film, itself, doesn’t implore you to do that or to delete any other social network.

One or more of the interview subjects may be of the opinion that you should delete all social media, and they, themselves have done so. Meanwhile, other subjects in the film acknowledge that social media has brought a lot of good to the world, and they provide some simple steps to evade its algorithms. They do advocate regulation.

4. It proves that all social media companies are run by evil villains.

No. Now, that doesn’t rule out some of them actually being evil villains (YMMV). But this film doesn’t prove they are and isn’t trying to prove it.

Rather than being about good guys vs bad guys, TSMD wants us to understand that algorithms don’t have a moral compass. Algorithms only know true and false. Did you or did you not click or tap on something? Did you or did you not finish watching that video? Etc.

What’s made clear is that algorithms need regulating, and now that truly evil villains have figured out how to manipulate them, it’s really an emergency.

5. It’s a real-life modern age horror film.

According to more than one review, “The Social Dilemma” is a horror story. Horror, as a genre, wouldn’t even furrow its brow at “The Social Dilemma.”

Sure, more than one interview subject describes the current situation in nearly existential terms and as “a threat to democracy” all over the world. But Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t go on the rampage at a moonlight beach party and murder seven scantily-clad teenagers. (Hope that isn't a spoiler for anyone.)

Dystopian? Yes. Fatalistic or hopeless? No. Horror? Puhleez.

The film’s website provides excellent resources, action items and further education. https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/take-action/

  1. 4

    Good writeup. I think out of all the social networks, they zoom in on Facebook the most. They don't quite tell you to delete it, but they crafted a pretty dark narrative around it, complete with anthropomorphized sociopathic algorithms that ruin a teen's life.

    P.S. Out of curiosity, what motivated you to put this in the Community Building group as opposed to others? I've noticed lots of people posting in this group for things unrelated (or only tangentially related) to building communities.

    1. 2

      Movie Club, good call :-) Thank you!

    2. 1

      Thanks, Courtland :-)

      [EDIT - this isn't responsive to your comment, I realize now. I fixed below :-) ] Yes, I agree about Facebook—which is why #3 is an untruth. I say people have heard that based upon what I observed when searching the film's title on Google. (Maybe it's 5 things only I've heard given that it's based on a Google search, ha!) One headline of a review literally said that TSMD implores you to delete Facebook. (The one author does outright suggest everyone delete all their social media, both in his book and in the movie. But it's not the message of the movie.)

      Regarding putting it in this group, I only put it here because Rosie had put her original discussion post in here. So I wanted to be in proximity to that. I am curious though: where would you suggest this might have been better placed? Thanks!

      1. 1

        I'm realizing I misread your comment a little bit, re Facebook. What you correctly note about the narrative is exactly why I wanted to point out that the film isn't actually imploring us to delete Facebook. It can feel like it is. But at the end the various interviewees have different opinions about it. (Personally, btw, I have deleted FB.)

  2. 2

    I like this. Thank you!

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