Posts tagged "Instagram"

“The Social Dilemma” Dissects the morality of social media with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel

September 2nd, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““The Social Dilemma” Dissects the morality of social media with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel”

Rarely do you come across a narrative film or documentary that screams from the mountain tops of how important and timely it is to see. “The Social Dilemma” is this film and it is one that cannot and should not be missed by anyone. Strongly stated, I admit, but it’s necessary.

The opening scene is a quote by Sophocles. “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” and this describes the beginnings of technology what it has become. This film, while admitting to the greater good these advances in technology has brought us, it focuses upon how we, as a community, a country, and a world have been unwittingly duped into becoming fodder for sale. Our time, our eyes, our future desires and thoughts are all for sale. But the fallout is far greater as the curtain has been pulled back to reveal what’s really happening. And the social ramifications of programmers and their algorithms have reached catastrophic proportions. “The Social Dilemma” not only connects all the dots, it explains them.

The film is filled with interviews with the founders, innovators, and developers of the biggest social media platforms and companies in the world, such as Tim Kendall, Former Director of Monetization of Facebook, Justin Resenstein, Former Google Engineer, and others who created Facebook Pages and the “like” button, Twitter’s Head of Consumer Product, and others. We meet the lead in the film, Tristan Harris, Co-Founder and President of the Center for Humane Technology and former Design Ethicist at Google. He takes us back to that point of no return; when algorithms began to not only monetize attention to ads and particular information, but predicted it and changed who saw what. He cautioned, “If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.” With billions of users, this meant that each one of us, our anticipated wants and needs, were for sale and that we could be cultivated to desire things and have our own sense of individualized reality. One expert likened it to “The Truman Show” as we accept the reality that we are presented with. We cannot be objective if we are all getting different news.

The rapid fire growth in tech, sales of intangible items (aka our attention), is just the beginning of how our world has changed in “gradual and imperceptible ways” resulting in changing how we think and what we think. On the surface, it’s obvious that this is not for the better; just read the headlines every day for proof. Additionally, our emotional health and well-being has been jeopardized by the silly little thumbs up sign that was, according to its developer, intended to make people feel good, not compete and influence a youngster’s self-worth and identity.

This isn’t the first film to pinpoint how social media has had a negative impact on our lives, but it is the first to explain the issue from the developers point of view. As they divulge that they could no longer ignore their own moral compass for the sake of the almighty dollar, these tech geniuses resigned.

The entire film is mind-blowing as we see the correlating statistics about young girls’ suicides and social media’s presence. We see how false news become someone’s reality, and we watch from the catbird seat how the divisiveness created by these technologies are eroding our society. As each of the experts explained their former positions and how they helped develop a “digital pacifier” and “sell certainty” to advertisers as Shoshana Zuboff, PhD and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School stated, the writing team of the film interjects dramatic short episodes of a story to represent the complexities of what they have developed and how it impacts you and your family.

The fictional story line stars Skyler Gisondo as Ben, the teen who is attached and addicted to his phone. The algorithm “team” or A.I. played by Vincent Kartheiser in three roles, manipulates Ben as he begins to question his addiction and need for connection via the phone. This narrative exemplifies what the Silicon Valley tech and business gurus have explained making it all disturbingly crystal clear.

“The Social Dilemma” accentuates that we, as individuals, are not equipped to battle the algorithms within our phones and social media. In fact, they point out that these algorithms continually morph to become more expeditious and efficient, and programmers are now behind the eight ball as they watch their creations become more independent. Is it Frankenstein gone wrong? The film does, although not to a deep enough level, touch upon possible solutions to give us hope. Perhaps the sequel to this film will be “The Social Solution.”

“The Social Dilemma” expertly tells a complicated story while using an entertaining fictional narrative to exemplify their findings. To watch a documentary about technology could easily be profoundly dull, but thanks to the writing team of Jeff Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis, it’s incredibly engaging and quite riveting as we see ourselves in this film. Integrating graphic art and the short fictional episodes is a brilliant way to augment the interviews with the experts. And it is with this innovative style that elevates not only the story, but the film overall.

We are all a part of the tech system, both for the good and the bad, and while this seems horrifying, it gives us knowledge and with that comes power. Perhaps we can also gain compassion and empathy as we look in the mirror before we accuse or judge others for their “wrong point of view.”

Available on Netflix beginning Sept. 9, 2020

4 Stars

“Social Animals” An Instagram story

December 27th, 2018 Posted by Review, Weekly VOD 0 thoughts on ““Social Animals” An Instagram story”

Instagram.  If you’re over 30, and I am, it’s an anomaly.  As a teenager in the 1970’s, popularity was assessed based on the number of carnations you received on Valentine’s Day during classes.  Now, it’s the number of public “likes” that can truly make or break you in high school.  Director Jonathan Ignatius Green followed three teens; an aspiring photographer in New York City, a Midwestern girl from Central Ohio, and a wealthy entrepreneur near Malibu, California.  The three are very different teens, but they all experience the emotional costs, both positive and negative of the impact of the social media platform of Instagram.

Green introduces us to Humza, a kid from the inner city of N.Y.  who develops an eye for photographs taken from forbidden vantage points.  Humza’s popularity blows up, but just at the peak of his popularity, he is vilified for revealing a subculture within the city.  Green interviews Humza before, during, and after his Instagram “success,” giving the viewers a keen insight to Humza’s rather mature and very candid expression of social media consequences.

Interwoven into Humza’s story, Green expertly incorporates Kaylyn’s unusual panache for engaging viewers with her style and look which eventually leads to greater opportunities.  Although, fame does have its drawbacks for her and her family, we are privy to the emotions at the time.  Matching Humza and Kaylyn’s story arc, we see that Green couldn’t have chosen a better representation for middle America than a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio with Emma who pays an ever greater emotional price as a negative spin is thrust upon her perceived persona.  

The pressure these kids feel is obvious, determining, in many instances, whether a teen has a sense of self-worth.  In fact, as the film reveals, purchasing “likes” and “followers” is also a technique used to increase their reputation as someone worthy of knowing.  As crazy as this might sound to someone outside of the Instagram realm, it’s a heady and real situation for kids, not to mention emotionally and financially costly.

Green tells each of these teens’ stories from beginning to end, allowing the viewer to walk in their shoes.  His ability to ask the right questions and create a trusting atmosphere for each subject to feel comfortable gives the film integrity and honesty.  These elements connect us to Humza, Kaylyn, and Emma as we watch them rise and fall and then hopefully find the strength to rise again.  Following these “kids” as well as having interviews with parents and other kids over the course of two years, Green allows you, the viewer, to arrive at your own conclusions about the impact of social media as he always takes the position of neutral observer, allowing the story to unfold naturally and honestly.

Initially, my hopes for the film were to be in some way to denounce social media platforms, justifying my inabilities to somehow master the medium, but Green doesn’t place a judgment upon it.   “Social Animals” expertly weaves together a compelling narrative, but more importantly, it allows everyone, no matter their age, to better comprehend the social pressures of today’s youth in a digital era.  It also serves as an avenue for teens to relate and perhaps even find comfort in knowing that they are all in the same boat.  


While I long for the days where it was only one day of a popularity contest and hoping that I wouldn’t get any green carnations (indicating “You bug me”), times have changed and “Social Animals” creatively communicates these changes.  Every parent, teacher, social worker and counselor would benefit from seeing this film.  While I no longer have teens at home, the film did allow me to let go of the pressure I feel as I attempt to “master” using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  Don’t even get me started on SnapChat!

For more information about the film and director, go to


You can see “Social Animals” on iTunes:    or on Amazon:


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