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The Social Dilemma: Addiction in the Time of Social Media

November 6, 2020

Director Jeff Orlowski delivered a daunting Netflix documentary on the effects social media has on our world. The Social Dilemma targets our social media-addicted culture with interviews from network executives and a secondary narrative plot telling the reality of social media addiction.

The Social Dilemma highlights a subject matter highly vital to the generations of kids now being raised on social media. The movie tells about social media preying on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain to hook the audience. This manipulation leads to addiction with harsh effects on a person’s mental health. Throughout the pandemic, people have undoubtedly spent increasing amounts of time scrolling on their phones to pass the time. The film explains that people who spend countless hours scrolling on their phones are not the consumers of the media but instead are the product. To clarify, our time and attention is the product sold to advertisers and media conglomerates.

“Only two organizations call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” This quote from the movie is extremely telling of how tech and social network experts view the consumer. Throughout the documentary, social media creators are interviewed to provide perspective on the apps and sites they have created. Creators and employees from Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites show disdain towards the work they have contributed to. The surveillance of all social media users is seen as an advantage and used to create the addicting experience by catering to the interests and patterns being observed during said surveillance. 

Social media creates an endless desire to pick up the cell phone and continue to mindlessly browse the internet while the media conglomerates profit off of this addiction. The documentary is a call to action; Set the phone down, offer your mind a break from the endless stimuli, and live a life outside of the screen.

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