I've resisted writing about shows on this blog, but one has recently come up that is worth mentioning: The Social Dilemma. I watched this show after noticing, yes, ironically, Chuck Wendig and George RR Martin mention it as a horrifying fright fest on social media. Now, I'm not a huge documentary viewer by any means, but after having the program recommended by two of my favorite authors, I couldn't resist giving it a whirl.
First off, the show is well done. I think anyone interested in how social media impacts society at large will find the program fascinating enough to dedicate 134 minutes to it. The talking heads, especially the gentleman referred to as the Father of Virtual Reality, have interesting perspectives and universally warn of a dystopian hellscape or all-out extinction if the diabolical, unintended side effects social media aren't corralled. Even if you are familiar, at least tangentially, with dark UX, microtargeting advertising, and the vast surveillance infrastructure these enormous social media companies use to monetize their users, The Social Dilemma is worth watching. Why? Because it succinctly explores how this has unintentionally led to fake news, polarization, tribalism, and alternative facts. Sure, these things have always existed in one form or another. The problem is social networks put all this specious, polemical BS on steroids. The fact of the matter is people aren't evolved to sort through the firehose of disinformation spewing from the various social networks.
This leads to magical thinking, not unlike what I hear coming for the mouths of children. But, think of it this way. If everyone in your social network, which is where you get most, if not all, of your news, says climate change is fake, what are you going to think when someone on ABC News or any other network or form of media says it is real and the overwhelming number of scientists agree that is real? You're going to think, that's fake news. Everyone in my social group says climate change is fake. I know there are a couple scientists in there. Anyway, watching this documentary drives home the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson (to paraphrase): we don't need to make America great again. We need to make America smart again.