MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The Social Dilemma - Streaming on Netflix
Documentary directed by Jeff Orlowsky
If you are reading this review, I know that you are on the Internet. Thanks for showing up! Possibly you made your way to this from the East Ohio Conference home page or by clicking on a link in a Facebook post. You might be reading this on your computer, phone, or tablet.
You might also be using Google, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or TikTok to connect with other people or simply to pass the time.
Naturally, in this Covid-19 world, we are dependent upon Zoom, Face Time, and a multitude of ways for distance learning. And Netflix, Hulu, Disney + and Apple + have all become familiar streaming buddies (showing their faces on this page daily).
The Social Dilemma has a simple message to share: Your data is being collated and used by services and search engines in order to personally influence your experience online as well as your perception of the world. Algorithms are programs that do the heavy lifting, and faster neural engines use artificial intelligence to create even more detailed scenarios.
Former top-level designers and executives from the big social network companies are interviewed in this film and are very upfront about the mixed blessings and potential dangers of online use. Jaron Lanier, author of the very good book Ten Arguments for Why You Should Delete Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, also gets in a few words.
There is a good discussion about how addictive Facebook “likes” can be and how anxiety and fear can be stoked by haters and internet trolls.
On one hand, all of this seems fairly obvious. But just because something can be clearly understood does not mean that it is. Think about how quickly you can be tempted to fire off a defensive reply and hit “send” before checking out the veracity of the offensive article or comment.
Using this film with a church youth group or any small group could open up a great conversation about the current state of online usage. Since there is never any doubt that whatever method or tool we use to keep ourselves safe, someone or some company will find a way to runaround our defenses and hit us again.
The ending of this film is very sensational and alarmist, which is an unfortunate coda to an otherwise good movie. There are a lot of “talking heads” in this film, which the filmmakers try to leaven with fictional depictions of users and machines. If you do choose to watch, get to this right away. Come next year, technology will change the landscape yet again.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A reality check for anyone who uses the internet and social media.
Three pitchforks: Brief strong language; deception; invasion of privacy.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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