The Social Dilemma: Handle With Care

Joceline De Lara
5 min readApr 10, 2021
Photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash

Social media…the one thing that’s brought us so much joy through instantaneous connection; on the other hand, the one thing that’s brought us stress and pain from that connection. To think that this magical little tool that connects us with friends, family, celebrities, and influencers, could be the root cause of a disconnected society, is so chilling and even scary to look into. For that, we have our social privacy to blame.

Netflix’s The Social Dilemma explores these questions of privacy and how this medium has affected the way of human livelihood in such a short amount of time.

After watching what felt like a compilation of hard-to-hear truths, I too felt the paranoia that the film exudes so well. And that’s coming from me, a person who posts lightheartedly and in good consciousness, being fully aware of my own security before viewing the documentary.

Still, the film presents so many interesting points of view, from doctors to psychologists, to the heads of these big platforms that initially created this as a means for human connection. Today we explore some of these questions, and how they may have raised my awareness as a result. Let’s dive in:

Were there particular moments in the film that resonated with your experience?

What resonated most was the obsessiveness that social media has created as part of our livelihoods.

I’m part of Gen Z, so growing up with this emerging tech formed me to be a part of the society that was starting to integrate it as a necessity. Still, I remember having a happy childhood without it as a distraction. I’ve always felt I was in between Millennials and Gen Z-ers as I have both a hate and an obsession with the medium. Although in reality, I try to limit my intake sometimes to try to enjoy life through my own lens.

Separate from the documentary, Victoria Goodyear expands on the issue of body image in the way that teens and young adults perceive and use this information:

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

“In turn, young people can become obsessed with the ways they look on social media, and it has been suggested that some are addicted to the feedback they obtain on whether their bodies conform to socially acceptable standards (Handyside & Ringrose, 2017)” (Goodyear, 2020, p. 48).

A direct result of the uses and gratifications model, where the need for instant approval is being weaved into our psychology and then reinforced day after day. And at this point, it could be hard for some to escape this as it really triggers some sort of emotional appraise as a result.

One other moment that resonated had to be the link in suicide rates in teenage girls and their dramatic increase. Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., highlights this spike in self-harm amongst adolescent girls throughout the film. And to think that only a decade ago, this problem spiked upright as social media was beginning to take its stride. This is a problem that can’t go unnoticed.

I can’t say that I felt this much of an extreme, but I can see how social media's comparativeness affects people and their desire to be perfect. It’s a problem we need to be able to come to terms with so that we can teach children who are born into this era.

The film highlights how social media distorts our view of ourselves, our relationships, and our broader reality. Have you experienced that distortion, if so how?

In some ways, yes, but over the years I’ve learned to manage my own views and perceptions in a positive and maybe even healthy way. Again growing up with so much content, it’s hard not to see all of that “perfection” and turn the other cheek.

Courtesy of Refinery29

But was it really any different than what, for example, magazines of the 90s highlighted? Was it not so far off from what the fashion industry dictated the ideal body to be in society? The media's depiction of reality has always been contorted to frame the most ideal way to live as humans, now it's just had to evolve with the times.

“We evolved for people in our tribe to care about whether other people in our tribe think well of us or not, ’cause it matters. But were we evolved to be aware of what 10,000 people think of us?” (Harris, 2020)

And to me, this is dangerous, because it certifies the fact that our perception of ourselves is deemed worthy by others when in truth we ourselves are our own gatekeepers.

In a way, we distort our own realities, which makes us feel less trusting of the world. But what in turn have we gotten from the tech that we otherwise wouldn’t know, the exposure of the world and its untrustworthiness scares us.

In the film, the case is made that human willpower can’t be expected to compete with some of the most sophisticated AI on the planet. What can we do to develop healthy relationships with technology?

This is a really hard question because humans strive to make technology efficient so that our lives could run more smoothly. We’re too reliant on it.

I think one way to develop a healthy relationship with technology is to find a balance and a limit as to our use. We need to teach children that this technology can be on our side, but it is ultimately up to us to be aware of what we are posting and what is affecting us in real-time.

Goodyear, V. (2020). Narrative matters: Young people, social media and body image. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 48–50.

Harris, T. (2020). The social dilemma.

Orlowski, J. (Director). (2020). The social dilemma [Motion Picture].

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Joceline De Lara

As a grad student at the University of Florida, I aspire to study the age of communication. Let's see where that leads us.