The Social Dilemma: Come to the Dark Side

Courtesy of Netflix

I have been telling everyone about this documentary-style drama film. It was so fascinating, and to be completely honest, quite jarring.

Watching this documentary was like watching the documentary “Food, Inc.” If you have not seen that documentary, essentially, there is a part that shows how Fast-Food chicken nuggets are made. I remember watching this documentary in my 8th-grade class. I also remember wanting McDonald’s chicken nuggets soon after finishing the film.

The Social Dilemma was kind of like this. While watching the documentary, I was scared and believed that society was headed in a very upsetting direction. I questioned the industry I was headed into — Advertising and Social Media. And then, after about an hour, I gave up on staying away from my phone. And when I spent an hour of my time watching TikTok and browsing my Instagram explore page.

Were there particular moments in the film that resonated with your experience?

Several moments resonated with me over the course of the film.

The people that were involved with this documentary were really shocking. There were plenty of past CEOs, app and program developers, and others contributing to the progression of the social media age. One contributor mentioned how they spoke with lawyers for at least 8 months before they began filming The Social Dilemma (Orlowski, 2020). The individual who created the Facebook “like” button was a part of this documentary and spoke out about the dangers social media could have on society (Orlowski, 2020). How was he to know that a simple thumbs-up button would amount to so much and that people would find themselves sinking into a depressive state because their post did not receive a specific number of likes than other friends or followers?

As mentioned in The New York Times reviews, ‘Unplug and Run,’ The Social Dilemma Documentary claims that “manipulation of human behavior for profit is coded into these platforms” (Girish, 2020). One interview with an individual in the film explains that we are the product. “Our attention is the product being sold to advertisers.” We constantly are scroll and scroll, and constant notifications turn our attention back to our phones. It’s engineered to be addictive.

Lilla Bardenova on Dribble

For example, 15 minutes and 37 seconds into the film, I found the conversation topic utterly eerie. Social media is essentially a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures (Orlowski, 2020). Everything we do is being watched, tracked, and measured. Essentially, all of our actions are being carefully monitored, and data is being collected and stored.

The film highlights how social media distorts our view of ourselves, our relationships, and our broader reality. Have you experienced that distortion? If so, how?

The tricky thing with a question like this is that it can be difficult to realize the distortion in social media while using social media. Taking a step back from social media can help realize the sort of lens that shades the world when looking at it through social media.

I may be exposing myself here…Personally, I have seen how Social Media distorts how I view my friend’s (and influencer’s) social media profiles. I use tools and apps on my phone to distort my images. Change the colors and tone of the image using Lightroom, and using apps like Facetune to smooth my face, and Adobe Photoshop Fix to nip and tuck “lines” that make the original not “post-able.” I have never posted a picture on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter that has not been edited in some way, shape, or form. I have even used photoshop to place sunglasses on myself and others when their eyes are closed.

Before and After using the Facetune App

In the film, the case is made that human willpower can’t be expected to compete with some of the most sophisticated AI on the planet. What can we do to develop healthy relationships with technology?

I think there needs to be regulation on technology. We should not allow Artificial Intelligence to solely replace human intelligence or even flaws. Humans have empathy that machines and AI have no way of truly possessing.

I am reading a book called Scythe by Neil Shusterman, and Artificial Intelligence actually rules over civilization. There is no more war, politics, hunger, poverty, and so much more. The Thunderhead (the AI program) knows everything about every single person in the world. The people are quite bored with their lives. It’s a utopia, but people are merely living, not alive with curiosity and purpose.


Girish, D. (2020, September 9). ‘The Social Dilemma’ Review: Unplug and Run. The New York Times.

Orlowski, J. (Director). (2020). The Social Dilemma [Film]. Exposure Labs.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ali Cozzolino-Smith

Ali Cozzolino-Smith

University of Florida Advertising Student