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The Social Dilemma
by Karen Pecota

Exposure Labs presents their latest documentary The Social Dilemma under the direction of Jeff Orlowski and written by award winners Davis Coombe and Vickie Curtis. Orlowski features fourteen highly accomplished social media gurus who could no longer turn a blind-eye to the dangers social media platforms pose to humanity.

Orlowski was studying at Stanford University in 2004 when Facebook came to campus. Deep into the tech scene, he loved the excitement and energy this new technological world offered. He was an Apple Campus Rep for two years and co-founded a short-lived start-up. But, what he loved the most was the opportunity to hang-out and learn from a community of really smart people trying to use technology to make the world a better place. Lifelong relationships were forged and though Orlowski could have seen himself following the path of a techie guru, he chose a different adventure. His path initially took him to Greenland and Iceland as a cinematographer where he made documentaries such as Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral.

In 2017, Orlowski reconnected with Tristan Harris, one of his college techie friends, after reading Tristan's online post about his serious concerns about what the tech companies were doing to society. Orlowski said, "I was completely taken aback. Tristan was serious." Orlowski was aware of the positive impact of social media but unaware of any negative critique.

Tristan is the President and co-founder of the "Center for Humane Technology", whose mission is to repair the social fabric of society by realigning technology with our shared humanity. He has spoken to many world leaders on the 'dark side' of technology and offers advice on the way forward. He has become an expert on how technology companies battle for our attention which is leading to political polarization, outrage, truth decay, digital addiction, and social isolation.

Orlowski entered into dialogue with Tristan, along with other experts in the tech world and through their conversations Orlowski came away with a completely different perspective on the world's leading social media technology that he had grown to love and admire. Orlowski discovers that social media platforms have reached a massive scale of power that is not only concerning but frightening. The potential danger to negatively dictate society is mind-boggling. He says, "Our friends in Silicon Valley aren't just programming code, they are programming our society."

The Social Dilemma is Orlowski's ode of warning to us regarding the world of social media and the entities that control the platforms we blindly use every day. Orlowski pushes us to "think" about what we (society) allow to influence our future without being conscious of neither the ramifications nor the impact.

Orlowski reflects, "We are entering into a new age of reckoning with our technology and the companies controlling its creation. Where these desires diverge from our own, our humid you is sold to the highest bidder." He continues, "This issue is a foundational problem underpinning out ability to live our lives freely." Adding, "This filmmaking journey has revealed to our team a story hidden in our own pockets, a story that is simultaneously utopian and dystopian, and a story that will define the remainder of human history."

I have long admired my son, Kevin-being of the first social media generation-for not having such accounts (aside from email); and, while he notes that it is difficult at times being out of the 'social media' loop with his peers, work co-workers, friends and family, he feels free of the technology's pitfalls and/or addictions.

He was in college when MySpace was popular and had an account but never used it. Soon Facebook became popular and while he was in the middle of signing up for an account, he had the feeling that it might not be good for him because it could be a time-waster. In addition, the temptation to only reveal a polished version of him to others would not be truthful. That scared him and he shut his laptop and never finished the application. Since then, he's watched each new platform potentially take over the next that often fuels unhealthy activity. Besides being a time-waster, he did not want to get caught up in a life of constantly comparing himself to others. He felt this would be unhealthy and unwise. Kevin says that from the beginning he never bought into the 'products' and, therefore, never put value in the platforms.

Orlowski interviews many individuals from the various social media platforms in The Social Dilemma with a powerful loud and clear message of 'buyers beware'. Naturally, those running the platforms do not want the public to believe Orlowski's messaging but one can't discount the experts’ harsh stance, their reasons and their advice. The Social Dilemma is truly what we all now face and must decide what path forward we will choose to engage-to be manipulated or not.