(director/writer: Jeff Orlowsky; screenwriters: Davis Coombe/Vickie Curtis; cinematographers: Jonathan Pope/John Behrens; editor: Davis Coombe; music: Mark A. Crawford; cast: Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, Vincent Kartheiser, Tristan Harris, Justin Rosenstein, Anna Lembke, Roger McNamee, Sophia Hammons; Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Larissa Rhodes; Netflix; 2020)

“Even if it’s a well-done study on social media, it is still mostly tedious.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The informative and clever documentary by Jeff Orlowsky (“Chasing Coral”/”Chasing Ice”) shows the major faults of the social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram), such as its addictive nature and of making us so dependent on it that we could lose ourselves in it. It is co-written by the director and writers Davis Coombe and Vickie Curtis.

Orlowsky’s main interview is with Tristan Harris, the past Google design ethicist, now the head of the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit agency whose mission is to “reverse human downgrading by realigning technology with our humanity.” Harris clarifies for us how and why social media’s manipulation is so malevolent by stating emphatically that: “If the service is free, then you are the product.” There’s also the suggestion that the algorithms of the social media groups show so much divisiveness among its users (the hatred between those from the blue states and those from the red states). Justin Rosenstein, the engineering manager who invented Facebook’s “like” button, agrees with Tristan’s assessment. Meanwhile Anna Lembke Stanford University’s “addiction expert” tells us how social media exploits the brain’s evolutionary need for interpersonal connections.

There are fictitious acted-out dramatic scenes and informative interviews with many other techies and giants of Silicon Valley telling us things I seen covered in other documentaries. The main things mentioned here is that social media can be a bad habit if not careful. Since I’ve never participated in social media, the documentary never completely held my attention; and,
even if it’s a well-done study on social media, it is still mostly tedious and inconclusive about what to do about the problem. The experts in this film all look upon social media as damaging if not used in the right way. In any case, there’s no pat answer in how to use it except practicing moderation.

      Social Dilemma - Sundance - PREMIERES DOCU - Publicity - H 2020

REVIEWED ON 11/21/2020  GRADE: B-