When you think of who knows you best, you most likely do not consider the algorithms behind your social media apps, and yet these algorithms may know you just as well, if not better than your close friends and family members. The popular Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, examines the extent of knowledge that these social media algorithms hold and dives into the technological, social, and mental consequences of social media apps. Tech experts and a realistic storyline portraying the effects of social media on a particular teenage boy, Skyler Gisondo, and his family frame the documentary and reveal to the public how extensive and dangerous of an issue social media is. After initially airing, the documentary quickly gained views and in September it was listed on Netflix’s top ten most popular movies and TV shows.
Many students and teachers at San Marin have watched the documentary and have found it impactful for a variety of reasons.
“Personally, what impacted me the most was the algorithms ability to polarize their audiences’ points of view,” junior Dominick Raffaini said. “It makes sense now why, at least in American politics, both sides of the spectrum view the other side as evil, because everyone is only ever recommended things they believe in.”
The documentary shines a light on how advanced the algorithms behind social media apps are and how they influence everyone’s lives much more than one would originally think. The documentary reveals how the algorithms behind social media apps target users with notifications of their social media feeds in order to keep users on the app for as long as possible.
“It [the documentary] made me feel sad that our country seems to be on a path of destruction, perhaps toward Civil War,” English teacher Melissa Muñoz Matheny said. “It made me angry that this was caused by the tech industry and that it’s all about tech giants making money. It made me feel disgusted how true news doesn’t make money but fake news does, so that is what these social media platforms have viciously perpetuated and literally banked on.”
Some students and teachers have taken action and changed their habits after hearing what this documentary had to say about the negative effects of social media.
“I haven’t had any social media notifications since 8th grade and there have been times that I’ve considered turning them back on, but the documentary helped me see the benefits of keeping them off,” senior Lauren Houlahan said. “Also, I now try not to go on my phone first thing in the morning because I feel like it’s starting my day on the ‘wrong foot’.”
After watching the documentary themselves a majority of students and teachers claim they would recommend it for others to watch.
“[I would] 100% [recommend it],” Muñoz Matheny said. “It’s about opening our eyes to the work and money behind the scenes and our vulnerability to it all.”