[Review]/our social dilemma: Alert For How to Use SNS [Netflix documentary]

[Review]/our social dilemma: Alert For How to Use SNS [Netflix documentary]

Topic: review of “/our social dilemma,” recommendations for those who use social media. It is a documentary that cautions viewers about using SNS.

(Updated on 2021/02/09)

  • English level
  • The secret of notification
  • Accusation
  • Does the AI lead to a dystopia?
  • SNS companies’ three goals

Hi there, Kinkajuu here.

Do you use SNS (Social Networking Services)? Some famous services include Facebook, LINE, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, WhatsApp, Weibo, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube etc…

This documentary warns people how to be careful using SNS.

“/our social dilemma” explains how SNS is toxic, how it damages our mental state, and how it affects society.

You can watch it via Netflix, and I’d like to share my review because I found it very relevant to modern society.

English level

This title is suitable for intermediate-level English learners. The vocabulary is a little challenging though, so viewers may want to use LLN subtitles.

The secret of notification

SNS are built with eye-catching notifications. Generally, people will immediately check their phone when it makes a noise or vibrates in response to an alert.

Have you thought about why need to check these notifications so frequently? It is because the technology has been designed to appeal to human nature, part of which is the need to communicate with others. Cellphones and laptops are designed based on psychological principles in order to cause addiction.

For example, SNS deliberately notifies users about people who have similar interests. How would you feel to learn that notifications about your friends are simply meant to further the SNS companies’ financial goals? This documentary tells us that this functionality is actually very common.


“/our social dilemma” is separated into two sections, dramatizations and interview scenes. The dramatizations are kind of stupid (the “algorithm” is imagined as three men), but the interviews are pretty interesting.

In the interviews, interviewees talk about where they worked, in which department, projects which they were in, and products which they made. These interviews reveal the dark aims and financial goals that the SNS companies really have.

One interviewee says he forces his children to follow three rules for SNS:

  • Not to bring cellphones to the bedroom
  • To not use SNS before 16 years old
  • To budget how much time is used on SNS

These rules are necessary because SNS uses tactics which can easily lead to addictive behavior.

Does the AI lead to a dystopia?

There are some movies whose main message is that technology will destroy humanity. The documentary shows how in fact it is not AI that is destroying human society, but the algorithm.

SNS decide users’ relationships and creates an intolerant world where people only see what they want to see.

“/our social dilemma” shows the truth that SNS makes people puppets at a deep psychological level and change their behavior and feelings. A recent example may be the election of President Trump. In this documentary, it is suggested that Facebook encouraged users who were likely to believe conspiracy theories to vote Mr. Trump, partially leading to his election.

People naturally fear becoming isolated when they communicate, so it becomes more desirable to speak with those who already share the same opinions. People tend to trust things from people who share similar beliefs, even though those beliefs may be based on incorrect information. This ease of believing leads polarization and conflict.

In this documentary, one interviewee says that AI won’t destroy humanity, but SNS algorithms already aim to destroy human habits, behavior and worldviews.

SNS companies’ three goals

The companies which run SNS platforms have three goals for improving their profit and the goals are achieved by accessing their users’ data. They compete with each other to gather and sell their users’ data.

The three goals are:

  • engagement goal (how frequently to use the SNS)
  • growth goal (how to make users invite their friends)
  • advertising goal (how to profit from ads)

In other words, the more that people use SNS platforms, the more money the companies make.

In the last part of documentary, interviewees tell us how important it is for SNS companies to do business morally, and they put forward suggestions to reform the IT industry. I felt this was core message of the documenatry: “Do not make people a resource for the rich”

For the dramatization part of the documentary, a teenager becomes addicted to SNS and begins to follow outlandish political messages. This might be a good opportunity to rethink how you use SNS.

Everyone uses SNS or knows someone who does. Considering the topic’s importance, I would recommend this documentary if you would like to know more about the ill effects of SNS usage.


Here is a Japanese version



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