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  • Romy Kraus

'The Social Dilemma' - Interview with filmmaker Jeff Orlowski

“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” - Jeff Orlowski

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. 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.” - Jeff Orlowski


We tweet, we like, and we share— but what are the consequences of our growing dependence on social media? As digital platforms increasingly become a lifeline to stay connected, Silicon Valley insiders reveal how social media is reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen.


The world has long recognized the positive applications of social media, from its role in empowering protesters to speak out against oppression during the Arab Spring uprisings almost a decade ago, to serving an instrumental role in fighting for equity and justice today. And in 2020, during an astonishing global pandemic, social media has become our lifeline to stay in touch with loved ones, as well as proving to be an asset for mobilizing civil rights protests. However, the system that connects us also invisibly controls us. The collective lack of understanding about how these platforms actually operate has led to hidden and often harmful consequences to society—consequences that are becoming more and more evident over time, and consequences that, the subjects in The Social Dilemma suggest, are an existential threat to humanity.

The Social Dilemma is a powerful exploration of the disproportionate impact that a relatively small number of engineers in Silicon Valley have over the way we think, act, and live our lives. The film deftly tackles an underlying cause of our viral conspiracy theories, teenage mental health issues, rampant misinformation and political polarization, and makes these issues visceral, understandable, and urgent. Through a unique combination of documentary investigation and entertaining narrative drama, award-winning filmmakers Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice, Chasing Coral) and Larissa Rhodes (Chasing Coral) have once again exposed the invisible in a manner that is both enlightening and harrowing as they disrupt the disrupters by unveiling the hidden machinations behind everyone’s favorite social media and search platforms.

The film features compelling interviews with high-profile tech whistleblowers and innovation leaders including Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology; the co-inventor of the Facebook “Like” button, Justin Rosenstein; Tim Kendall, former President of Pinterest and former Director of Monetization at Facebook; Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction; Rashida Richardson, Director of Policy at the AI Now Institute, and many others. Demonstrating how social media affects consumers on a personal level, these fascinating insider insights are seamlessly woven into a captivating narrative, including Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), that illuminates the very real consequences these seemingly innocent technologies can have on our everyday lives.


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