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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review--"The Social Dilemma"


What happens when technology takes users down a rabbit hole? In his new documentary   “The Social Dilemma”,  filmmaker and Sundance Film Festival alum Jeff Orlowski takes a look at what goes on behind the smartphone screen.  Linda Jager shares her thoughts on the film for this week’s Friday Film Review.

When a group of tech experts and former employees of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and You Tube explain that social media is fast becoming an irreversible threat to society – it’s time to pay attention!

Emmy award winning director, Jeff Orlowski brought this issue to the forefront with the debut of “The Social Dilemma” at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

The documentary features interviews with those who were on the front line as “Persuasive Technology” emerged and the social media industry skyrocketed. Orlowski also features policy makers, professors, and psychologists who share their perspectives and the science behind how addictive social media has become and the impact it has on all aspects of our lives. Something that is especially timely as we’ve become more dependent on social media to stay connected during the COVID pandemic.

One of the featured tech experts, Tristan Harris is a former design ethicist at Google. He is a constant voice of reason throughout the film. Harris is president and a co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, which focuses on the ethics of social media.  Harris points out that the “dilemma” is that social media, apps, and persuasive technology simultaneously offer users utopia and dystopia - bringing out the best and the worst in society.

Whether this is leading to a rise in mental health problems among youth, or an increase in conspiracy theories and political polarization as seen with adults, the tech experts agree: now is the time to find a solution to the social media dilemma. 

Incidentally, the film was updated after its Sundance screening to include a segment on the growing number of social media conspiracy theories related to COVID-19.

To illustrate the dire warnings from the tech experts, Orlowski alternates from interviews and footage to a docudrama featuring a suburban family where each member struggles with some form of social media addiction and manipulation. It’s a bit odd and distracting for a documentary subject that could easily stand on its own.

“The Social Dilemma” is now available to stream on Netflix. The film runs 1 hour and 34 minutes, and is rated PG for violent images, suggestive material, and some thematic elements.

“The Social Dilemma” may frighten you enough to delete your social media apps immediately, but be sure to keep watching through the end credits as the experts share their own tips to combat the evils of social media.

This is Linda Jager with the KPCW Friday Film Review.

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