The Social Dilemma

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The Social Dilemma
Social dilemma xlg.jpg
Official promotional poster
Directed byJeff Orlowski
Produced byLarissa Rhodes
Written by
  • Davis Coombe
  • Vickie Curtis
  • Jeff Orlowski
Music byMark A. Crawford
  • John Behrens
  • Jonathan Pope
Edited byDavis Coombe
  • Exposure Labs
  • Argent Pictures
  • The Space Program
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • January 26, 2020 (2020-01-26) (Sundance)
  • September 9, 2020 (2020-09-09) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Social Dilemma is a 2020 American docudrama directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis. The film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, how its design is meant to nurture an addiction, its use in politics, its impact on mental health (including the mental health of adolescents and rising teen suicide rates), and its role in spreading conspiracy theories and aiding groups such as flat-earthers and white supremacists.

The film features interviews with former Google design ethicist and Center for Humane Technology co-founder Tristan Harris, his fellow Center for Humane Technology co-founder Aza Raskin, Asana co-founder and Facebook's like button co-creator Justin Rosenstein, Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff, former Pinterest president Tim Kendall, AI Now director of policy research Rashida Richardson, Yonder director of research Renee DiResta, Stanford University Addiction Medicine Fellowship program director Anna Lembke, and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. The interviews are cut together with dramatizations starring actors Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, and Vincent Kartheiser, which tell the story of a teenager's social media addiction.

The Social Dilemma premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix on September 9, 2020.[1]





On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 39 reviews, with an average rating of 7.62/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Clear-eyed and comprehensive, The Social Dilemma presents a sobering analysis of our data-mined present."[2] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on nine critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

ABC News's Mark Kennedy called the film "an eye-opening look into the way social media is designed to create addiction and manipulate our behavior, told by some of the very people who supervised the systems at places like Facebook, Google, and Twitter" and said it will "[make you] immediately want to toss your smartphone into the garbage can [...] and then toss the garbage can through the window of a Facebook executive".[4] Variety's Dennis Harvey said the film does a good job of explaining how "what's at risk clearly isn't just profit, or even poorly socialized children, but the empathetic trust that binds societies, as well as the solidity of democratic institutions [which] we're learning can be all-too-effectively undermined by a steady diet of perspective-warping memes".[5] According to IndieWire's David Ehrlich, the film is the "single most lucid, succinct, and profoundly terrifying analysis of social media ever created".[1] A Financial Times review said the film "carefully details the skyrocketing levels of depression among children and teenagers; the flat-earthers and white supremacists; the genocide in Myanmar; the Covid misinformation; [and] the imperilling of objective truth and social disintegration".[6] The New York Times said that the film features "conscientious defectors from companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram [who] explain that the perniciousness of social networking platforms is a feature, not a bug".[7] A review in the Los Angeles Times's Kevin Crust stated that "while most people are aware that they're being mined for data while on these sites, few realize how deep the probe goes [...] if you think the trade-off is merely getting targeted ads for your favorite sneakers, you are in for a big shock".[8]


  1. ^ a b Ehrlich, David (January 29, 2020). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: A Horrifyingly Good Doc About How Social Media Will Kill Us All". IndieWire. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Social Dilemma (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  3. ^ "The Social Dilemma Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Mark (September 8, 2020). "Review: Put down that phone, urges doc 'The Social Dilemma'". ABC News. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  5. ^ Harvey, Dennis (January 31, 2020). "'The Social Dilemma': Film Review". Variety. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  6. ^ Danny Leigh (September 9, 2020). "The Social Dilemma — this is how the world ends".
  7. ^ Girish, Devika (September 9, 2020). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: Unplug and Run". The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  8. ^ Crust, Kevin (September 9, 2020). "Review: A call to digital arms, 'The Social Dilemma' demands change". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 9, 2020.

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