It’s about social media. Yes, it’s about social media, but it’s not ONLY about social media. Many of the concerns exposed are about Google and other services that aren’t strictly social media networks. That’s important.
It takes place “in the dark underbelly of Silicon Valley…” According to the film’s description on sundance.org, the film is set “in the dark underbelly of Silicon Valley.” Silicon Valley has a dark underbelly just like any other major urban area. But the the film isn’t set there, nor is it even about it. It’s mostly set in hip-looking minimalist interiors that have been lit to make the interview subjects look good. The fictional story that’s woven between the interviews is set in a lovely suburban home. So, I guess maybe it’s set in your golden retriever’s dark fluffy “chubby-wubby undewbellwee?”
The film implores you to delete Facebook. Whether or not you should delete Facebook is an open question. But the film, itself, doesn’t implore you to do that or to delete any other social network. One or more of the interview subjects may be of the opinion that you should delete all social media, and they, themselves have done so. Meanwhile, other subjects in the film acknowledge that social media has brought a lot of good to the world, and they provide some simple steps to evade its algorithms. They do advocate regulation.
It proves that all social media companies are run by evil villains. No. Now, that doesn’t rule out some of them actually being evil villains (YMMV). But this film doesn’t prove they are and isn’t trying to prove it. For people who aren’t fans of sci-fi which regular explores good technology gone wrong, what’s being illustrated in the film might not be immediately familiar. Rather than being about good guys vs bad guys, it wants us to understand that algorithms don’t have a moral compass. Algorithms only know true and false. Did you or did you not click or tap on something? Did you or did you not finish watching that video? Etc. What’s made clear is that algorithms need regulating, and now that truly evil villains have figured out how to manipulate them, it’s really an emergency.
It’s a real-life modern age horror film. According to more than one review, “The Social Dilemma” is a horror story. Horror, as a genre, wouldn’t even furrow its brow at “The Social Dilemma.” Now, the film certainly contains plenty of dystopian ideas and warnings. More than one interview subject describes the current situation in nearly existential terms and as “a threat to democracy” all over the world. But Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t go on the rampage at a moonlight beach party and murder seven scantily-clad teenagers. Dystopian? Yes. Fatalistic or hopeless? No. Horror? Puhleez.