‘The Social Dilemma’ has a dire warning for users of social media

October 16, 2020

You may not smash your smartphone after watching Netflix’s newest hit documentary, but if you do, I won’t blame you.

Through interviews with former Silicon Valley insiders, “The Social Dilemma” (PG-13) reveals how Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other Internet giants have spoiled nearly every aspect of society with a series of tempting products we — too often — don’t resist.

The daily time once dedicated to family and friends is now wasted by chasing fake happiness in a virtual world. The time once used to read a book or take a hike is now traded for tweeting and posting and scrolling. We no longer live life. We only watch other people pretend to live their lives.

As one expert in the documentary says, social media has become the “digital pacifier” we run to when we’re anxious or sad or need a quick pick-me-up.

Designed to be addictive

Social media, another expert says, “operates just like the slot machines in Vegas” — you don’t know what you’re going to get when you slide your thumb down the screen to refresh, but you know you might find something new and exciting.

It’s addictive because it’s designed to be addictive, insiders say. The various platforms learn what you like, then give you more of it. They send notifications when you’re tagged or mentioned. They even suggest things you might like.

Tragic consequences

“We’ve moved away from having a tools-based technology environment to an addiction- and manipulation-based technology environment,” one expert says.

Sadly, there are tragic consequences. Since the social media age began booming, hospitalizations for non-fatal selfharm have increased 62% for older teen girls and 189% for younger teens girls. Even worse: the suicide rate has risen 54% for older teen girls and 151% for younger teen girls.

“Those kids are the first generation in history that got on social media in middle school,” says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

The film includes an impressive list of experts: a former senior vice president at Twitter; a former president of Pinterest; the co-inventor of Google Drive and Gmail Chat; and the co-inventor of the Facebook “like” button among them.

“I think we were naïve” about the negative consequences of the technology, one of them says.

The PG-13 documentary isn’t for small children. It includes mild language and is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, disturbing/violent images and suggestive material.

Despite the content caveats, it’s a must-watch for parents of tweens and teenagers. It’s also worth watching for adults who have fallen into the social media trap and need an incentive to climb out.

Also available this month:

  • “Switched” (Digital and VOD) A bullied high school girl prays that her tormentor will learn “what it’s like to walk a day in my shoes.” Her prayer is answered when the two girls wake up one morning having “switched” bodies. This is a “Freaky Friday”-style movie that’s one of the funniest comedies you’ll ever watch. It’s also faith-based and has positive lessons about bullying, kindness and beauty. Unrated, it includes no coarse language.
  • “Small Group: The Movie” (DVD and VOD)  — A director moves from California to the South to film a critical documentary about evangelicals — a film his producer says will reveal them to be hateful hypocrites. The director, though, only finds kindness, love and a body of believers trying to live out Christ’s commands. This faith-based comedy/drama includes mild language (misuse of “God” by the producer) and is rated PG-13 for thematic material including brief violence and drug references. It’s a funny film with a great message for the church.
  • “Never Again” (Theaters: Oct. 13 and 15) — A radicalized Muslim, Kasim Hafeez, travels to Israel to confirm his hatred for the Jewish people but is surprised to discover a multiethnic nation that welcomes him. “Never Again” is a documentary about anti-Semitism that follows one man’s journey from being an anti-Semite to a supporter of Israel. He also meets Holocaust survivor Irving Roth. It’s unrated but includes images of the Holocaust.
  • “Christopher Robin” (Disney Plus) — An overworked British man rediscovers the joys of life when his boyhood friends — Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Roo — visit. Christopher Robin is a live-action film with great lessons about family, encouragement, kindness and the balance of work and leisure. Rated PG for some action.

EDITOR’S NOTE  — Reviews of films, books, music or other media that appear in TAB are intended to help readers evaluate current media for themselves, their children and grandchildren in order to decide whether to watch, read or listen. Reviews are not an endorsement by the writer or TAB Media.

By Michael Foust

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