The Social Dilemma

This documentary will make you rethink the way you use social media.

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While the first several issues of this newsletter have mostly been about awesome local parks to visit, my plan remains to offer tips on many aspects of life: places to visit, places to eat, things to do, movies/music/podcasts to enjoy, and more! As always, let me know what you think or if you have any good tips by emailing me at or commenting on this post. Thanks for reading!

What to Watch

The Social Dilemma | Streaming on Netflix

Let me begin by saying that I have worked professionally in social media marketing for more than a decade. I have managed thousands of dollars in Facebook ad campaigns and produced thousands of social posts. I have used these skills to successfully gain new followers, acquire new email addresses and raise money for the non-profit organizations that have signed my paychecks.

All that said, The Social Dilemma scared me to death, even as it was telling me a lot of things I already knew about social media’s power, methods and not-so-subtle effects on society. This hybrid documentary-drama is an hour and a half of confirming or revealing your worst fears about Facebook, Twitter, Google and every other Internet superpower that offers you a “free” service in exchange for your personal data, time and attention—straight from the mouths of the horses who developed these applications. Seriously, they have an interview with the guy who invented the Like button and now regrets everything.

I joined Facebook when I was in college in 2004—mere months after it was created—and have been a loyal user ever since. (The documentary features a thought-provoking quote about how online services and drugs are two of the only industries that aptly refer to their devotees as “users.”) I have been all-in on Facebook’s ability to connect me with family and friends, and it has served as my gateway to other social networks like Twitter and Instagram—not to mention all of the personal data I’ve entrusted to Google over the years.

While there’s no denying the positive social aspects of these sites, this documentary gave me pause to the point where I spent the rest of my evening engaged in a social media gut check that left me deleting apps from my phone, removing friends and blocking ads in my Facebook timeline, and reevaluating the net gain from all the time I’ve spent and content I’ve added to these apps over the years. Apparently, I’m not alone in this response, as today Facebook released a rebuttal to points made in the documentary.

While I admit that the documentary can get a little heavy-handed in places, I’m still pretty convinced by most of its arguments. I feel like it helped to begin deprogramming me from the clutches of these social networks that have literally been engineered to play on our human weaknesses, our insecurities and the chemical imbalances in our brains. Seems like a worthy evening of television, no?

Tips from Dad

  • Use a Netflix 30-day trial. If you aren’t currently a subscriber, you can start a trial with any email address that hasn’t previously been used for a Netflix account.

  • Consider watching it with your older kids. My own children are all four and under, but this documentary is a cautionary tale to those with older kids who are already players in the smartphone/social networking world. Pre-teens and older should be able to handle it.

  • Think about your own social media usage. Do you need to hide your phone from yourself when you get home from work? Do you need to delete apps from your phone, turn off notifications, unfollow some accounts that are not adding anything positive to your life, or otherwise change the way you’ve been using (or being abused by) social media? It might be time to make some small changes to reclaim your free time and attention.

If you’ve already seen the documentary, I’d love to hear your thoughts below in a comment or you can reply to this email. Thanks for reading and use the button below to share this newsletter with others who might like to read it.