The Social Dilemma (2020)

‘Is this normal? Or have we all fallen under some kind of spell?’ asks Tristan Harris, one of the ex big tech employees/whistleblowers whose revelations are the subject of this intriguing new documentary. Do you feel like you are being manipulated and controlled by social media? Well that’s because you are! It’s that simple, and in fact, that’s what social media is all about.

It wants engagement, it wants activity, it wants growth, it wants to ‘change you on behalf of commercial interests’, it wants your soul! And some engineers and designers are now speaking out. ‘We’re all lab rats’ they say. ‘We can affect real-world behaviour and emotions, without ever triggering the user’s awareness’. That’s one of many great quotes from this illuminating expose. ‘There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software’ is another. What about this one: ‘fake news on Twitter spreads six times faster than true news’! Intentional addiction-creating, AI-modelling, ‘persuasive technology’. It’s all here. Social Media is the ‘Soma’ of our current civilisation.

This doc is a very timely update in a world where the political opinions and activism of millions of people around the world seem to be directly under the control of a small number of designers in and around San Francisco. Polarisation, radicalisation and ‘outragification’ comes from this. Kudos to Harris and the others for sharing this information with us and starting a conversation that is vitally important for our society to have.

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