Monday, June 14, 2021

The Social Dilemma (2020)

Overall I liked this documentary—it's alarmist about social media in a way that may feel overdone, yet I don't think it is. Social media, as innocuous as it seems from day to day, very likely represents a grave threat to the social order. We have seen plenty of evidence of that in the past 10 years or so and it is not getting better. The Social Dilemma also suggests the solutions are within reach, such as a point one of these Silicon Valley talking head experts makes about the heavy regulation of Saturday morning television, a known time period dominated by children watching. With the move to online social media, however, there was no parallel regulation. The example used is YouTube Kids, a Google site that promises all kinds of parental controls. But in many of these cases the reality is that the kids are way more savvy than their parents, plus on a general note it's never been a good idea to ask corporations to regulate themselves. The fact that there is no political will to push through these necessary regulatory controls is where I think the alarmism of this picture is most well-placed. I always want to point to Reagan retiring the FCC Fairness Doctrine in the '80s as the start of most of our current political problems. Probably I just need to point to Reagan himself and the modern Republican Party, which are forces that social media, notably Facebook, is actively aiding and abetting because doing so is making them billionaires. The experts assembled are knowledgeable, many having basically invented social media in the first place, and they are worried. One of the most interesting factoids here is that most of them strictly control the exposure of social media to their own children. Unfortunately, the picture—still worth seeing and by everyone—undermines itself too often by turning to the tools of docudrama, with trite little illustrative reenactments and skits that are too condescending. I got used to reenactments in true-crime TV, where they are common, but they are always a little awkward and with an air of phoniness. They remind me of the skit in Woody Allen's Love and Death that was presented to soldiers on the eve of battle in the Napoleonic Wars, warning about the dangers of syphilis. I admit one continuing skit here—with AI personified as three people discussing what to present a specific user next in a feed—was actually helpful to me in understanding the concept, which I have a very hard time getting my head around, of someone like me being the product that is sold to others in the social media chain of being ("if you're not paying for the product you are the product"). The skits still felt a little dumb, unconvincing, and overplayed. That might be just my experience but it isn't, as a discussion earlier this year among Phil Dellio, Steven Rubio, and Scott Woods makes clear. But I still think everyone needs to take a look at The Social Dilemma. And then DELETE ALL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. I say this as a rank hypocrite who spends too much time on Twitter every day, and Next Door some days, but please, do as I say. Look at this documentary.

1 comment:

  1. "it's never been a good idea to ask corporations to regulate themselves" Amen, brother!