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The Social Dilemma

Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse

Tim Kendall, a former president of Pinterest, admitted that years ago he couldn’t get off his phone even when he came home, despite having two young kids. “I am going to work during the day and building something that then I’m falling prey to,” he says in the film. “I couldn’t help myself.”

In the words of many, Netflix’s The Social Dilemma is the first film you’ll watch and immediately want to toss your smartphone into the garbage can. And then toss the garbage can through the window of a Facebook executive.

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the movie opens with a quote from Sophocles: “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” And the veterans of Silicon Valley weigh in with tales of good intentions from the early days of social media — prior to its own vastness — even as they paint a bleak picture of the current situation. As former Google and Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein points out, the latter’s “like” button was designed to be a tool for spreading “positivity and love,” not the behavioral tracking device it has become.

The Social Dilemma is 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.

Anyway, the last five minutes is actually semi-uplifting as the industry experts dole out steps you can take to limit how much you use your phone and the addicting technology that lives in it. “Always choose,” author and computer scientist Jaron Lanier says in the documentary. “That’s another way to fight.”

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