UPDATED with video: Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski has become known for his environmental documentaries Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral. But with The Social Dilemma he turns his attention to another issue with major implications for humanity: the damaging impact of social media.
“I’ve always been curious about big systemic and societal challenges,” Orlowski says during the film’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Documentary event. “One of the subjects of The Social Dilemma referenced this technology as a ‘climate change of culture’ and that sort of shattered my brain—that, invisibly, a handful of designers in Silicon Valley are writing code that is shaping the lives of billions of people around the planet.”
The Netflix documentary argues there are serious costs to “free” services like Facebook, Twitter and Google: Those companies collate user data expressed through “likes,” posts and Internet searches and sell it to advertisers and marketers.
“We use this phrase that some of our subjects referenced,” he says. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.’”
The Social Dilemma explores how our social media feeds have turned into echo chambers, exacerbating political divisions between us.
“[The algorithm] is putting things in front of you based on what it thinks you are most likely to engage with,” Orlowski points out. “So we’ve become accustomed over time to self-reinforcement, to confirmation bias, to seeing things that we resonate with that we already are engaging with…We live in the matrix and we don’t even realize it.”
Check out the panel video above.
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