Opinion: What ‘The Social Dilemma’ Documentary Got Wrong

The Netflix Documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ Left Something (Very Important) Out…

Disclaimer: Minor Spoilers for the ‘The Social Network’ ahead!

The Social Dilemma is a documentary which explores the worrying state of social media and the attention economy and how they threaten and are currently attacking our democracies. It is one of the documentaries we recommend on our resources page.

The documentary does a pretty good job of explaining the attention economy and the enhanced tracking and AI algorithms that social media services employ to slowly but surely change the way you perceive the world. This is, of course, sponsored by advertisers on services like Facebook and Instagram.

However, the documentary left something very important out!

What ‘The Social Dilemma’ does very well is point out and talk about problems with the state of modern internet/social media companies. It also does a great job of educating and starting a discussion particularly amongst those who are not actively familiar with the internet privacy community.

Where it falls short is with suggesting alternatives! You can point out the problems with something all day long, BUT if you do not offer people a suitable alternative, they can’t do anything about it.

‘The Social Dilemma’ offers a range of narratives including that the attention economy market should be banned, which is a great idealistic view, but not realistic in the slightest.

There is no mention of FOSS (Free Open Source Software), which in my opinion is the fundamental first step to solving the problems that ‘The Social Dilemma’ outlines. This is where the documentary ultimately falls short. It is an incredible shame and a wasted opportunity that these alternatives were not explored.

I still absolutely  recommend watching the documentary if you are new to privacy issues in tech, but make sure you also take action in finding suitable alternatives! There are some great sites like switching.software which give you FOSS alternatives to popular programs. You can also find a collection of links to resources on our ethical tech resources page as well as under our guides section.

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