movie review: the social Dilemma

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Nicolas Valladolid ’23

In our increasingly social media run world, The Social Dilemma (2020) presents us with an alarmingly grim prediction of the future accompanied by an urgent call to action, all by keeping us hooked with pensive cinematography, a brilliantly reserved score, and relatable individuals. 

The Social Dilemma is a documentary that studies the negative effects of social media whether it is social media addiction, fake news, mental illness, or even terrorism. The creators of these social media apps, many of whom had good intentions for their products, examine what the current trends mean for the future of society and ways to avert an existential crisis. It was shocking to see that because of social media, rates of depression and mortality in the last 15 years have skyrocketed. Even when sitting at what is meant to be a tech-free dinner, we can’t go two minutes without rushing to our phones. The apps do not make this better: The algorithms try to keep you hooked as if there are people in a control center in your phone that know everything you like and want. For example, the algorithm can predict your political views and based on this, and it puts a lot of heavily political fake news on your feed. I was distressed to see how our current trends of addiction and fake news are going to compromise human society,

In this film, the grim message is the main star. Despite covering a range of different subjects, the filmmakers and the speakers are all able to point towards the main message of social media regulation, whether they are talking about Covid conspiracy theories or YouTube Kids. It is incredible how the filmmakers were able to convey their message in such a way that was strong but not too intrusive. 

Even if a film has a good message, it does not matter if the filmmakers can’t keep the audience engaged. Luckily for The Social Dilemma, its cinematography, score, and speakers do just that. The lighting used in the interviews allowed for a dark color set that fit very well with the tone of the movie. A dark room with no light or an empty, gray parking garage were instrumental in setting a bleak and cautionary tone. In addition to this, the filmmakers combined shots and animations to create seamless transitions, and they used different camera angles to portray the experts as down to earth people who had genuine concerns. 

The filmmakers decided to use a very sparse soundtrack, which does a great job of creating a sense of urgency. In all of the serious shots, there is a dissonant undertone which helps create an atmosphere of reserved intensity and an excitement of what’s to come. The use of music is also very well planned out. The filmmakers only used music when they wanted to emphasize something, a subtle way of showing the important points and things to remember. 

One would think that a documentary about the tech industry would be drab, but The Social Dilemma keeps the audience interested by featuring relatable people. The film does an excellent job at portraying the experts and software developers as genuine down-to-earth people who are like the common man. The filmmakers make it a point to put in un-rehearsed scenes where the developers are talking and laughing just like anyone else.