What ‘The Social Dilemma’ misunderstands about social networks

The Social Dilemma screenshot

I. A dilemma

On Sunday night, after being encouraged to by friends and family, I hit play on a new documentary about our digital lives. Directed by Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma explores the effect of smartphones and social networks on human behavior. Blending talking-head interviews with some well known Silicon Valley apostates and fictional, after-school special-style dramatizations of what happens when Johnny and Janey scroll through feeds all day, the film presents itself as an urgent warning about our modern condition.

I’m more than a little sympathetic to these concerns. I started writing this newsletter in 2017 after coming to the belated realization that social networks really did have an outsized impact on modern life, and…

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Author: Casey Newton