The Social Dilemma Documentary Review: On the Dangers of Social Media


In the span on 1 hour and 30 minutes, The Social Dilemma helps provoke its audience to be proactive against the negative influences of social media.

Cynthia Schneider, Research Editor

The Social Dilemma is a great, and somewhat terrifying documentary all about social media. There have been many documentaries made on the dangers of social media, especially for teenagers, and how everyone should turn off their phones and experience life, but this one actually felt like it could have a real impact on audiences. It is a documentary/narrative type story where it is mostly reliant on interviews and informational storytelling, then further shows what they are discussing through a narrative story about a regular family dealing with the direct negative effect of social media on the public. 

There were multiple interviews with people from data scientists talking about how these companies collect data and why, former google employees trying to make social media safe for its users, and other former social media company employees all contributing their say into this important discussion. It was really interesting how these same people who have made social media their entire career, limit or do not even let their children on these websites. Or how they have decided to delete these apps off their phone entirely because they were able to see its harmful consequences upfront. I found it interesting when they discussed the idea of a company “selling user data” and how people really do not know why. According to the documentary, when a company “sells your data” it actually means it is selling a large sum of data from multiple users to advertisers. These services seem to be free and accessible to any customer, but the real customer is the advertising companies who are paying money for the guarantee that their product/service will do well according to the data given. In a sense, we as users are the “product’ that Instagram, youtube, and other social media websites are selling. 

Another large portion of this documentary is the narrative aspect and its ideas on teen use of social media. It was interesting how they paired the discussion of social media just trying to get users to stay on for hours and hours at a time with the narrative story. Or when they talked about self-esteem and mentioned that we as humans were never equipped to connect with and hear the opinions of thousands of other people, which has led to teens being much more vulnerable to the negative effects of social media such as addiction.

Other topics discussed included algorithms and how they are self-learning machines run by a small group of people at these companies, but control how we all receive our media. And at the end, it offers solutions like turning off notifications and never watching recommended videos (just search for the ones you want directly) to slightly change your lifestyle when it comes to social media because it is almost impossible to convince everyone to just delete all social media at once. Overall, the documentary was great and it could be pretty convincing and groundbreaking for a large audience of social media users. 

→ FINAL SCORE: 4.2/5

  • 5/5 – Message/Themes
  • 4/5 – Informational
  • 3.5/5 – Narrative Portion