Stories of the Digital World: Documentaries About Social Media Platforms

Stories of the Digital World: Documentaries About Social Media Platforms

Stories are the foundation for a social life and known for their recognizable patterns where we find meaning. It helps us to make sense of our world and to share the understanding with others. The story of storytelling has evolved with time. The journey has begun from granny’s storytelling delight to technologically advanced instruments’ engagement. Its initiation from verbal to scripted and gradually aided with images as well as videos has reached the digital world. At the present period, all the modes have made their well-flourished world with their admirers.

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” — Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human 

Stories are widely known for entertainment purpose. Though, every activity uses it to convey their ideas. However, in the world of entertainment, there is a variety of ways to deliver stories, such as movies, books, stage performances, documentaries, and many more. 

Since the turn of the new millennium, the documentary has made an impressive rise as an entertainment medium. A documentary is a broad term to describe a non-fiction movie that deals with facts and reality. It reveals an unusual, interesting or unknown angle, unlike feature film. The difference is to their purpose and subject matter. The documentary aims to educate, inform and inspire the viewers whereas feature films aim to entertain the audience. Documentary filmmakers carry a responsibility, to be honest with their vision of the world. And the documentary-film genre has turned up with the popularity of various social media platforms which have provided ease of accessibility from any corner of the world. 

In today’s life, social media has become an integral part of everyone’s lifestyle. Studies have shown that quite a good number of people are active on multiple social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. This is going further to show how relevant and popular the platforms have become in the present world. The users are using social networking sites as means of almost everything. Its importance can be seen in several fields such as business, entertainment, food, lifestyle, communication, welfare and a host of others. Undeniably, it has become the source of survival during the pandemic scenario. It keeps the people entertained, educated and connected in personal as well as professional life. It is fulfilling the requirement of social distancing with the availability of online shopping for every kind of stuff. But don’t you feel the excessive and rapidly increasing dependence on social media platforms can make us addictive. Have you ever thought, how are the social media platforms showing a utopian world to us? Let’s introduce the world behind the social-media platforms through some of the trending documentaries.

  • The Social Dilemma (2020)  

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma essentially proposes that social media represents “humanity’s greatest existential threat”, repeatedly. The docudrama is a set of interviews with people who invented a variety of algorithms. It highlights the toxicity of social media on humanity. The information about the shrewd ways in which Silicon Valley giants attract and manipulate our attention. The information is given by some of the most influential names of the industry—many of them high ranking ex-employees and founders—hits extremely close to home. It adds the information about the use of their audience base for benefits as they trade user data and the following information, influencing political agendas across the world. The information is certainly substantial. Its impact on mental health is also touched upon in detail. The people like business executives, scholars of psychology, anthropology and several other fields, as well as activists, are dedicated to spreading awareness regarding the negatives of such platforms. Nevertheless, the documentary is worth the watch for its interviews and exposure to the inner workings of some of the "richest corporations to exist in human history." It ends with a note of hope and an appeal to create law for the platforms. 

  • Childhood 2.0 (2020)

Childhood 2.0

Childhood 2.0 is about the navigation of children as they grow up in the digital age. It features real parents and kids as well as industry-leading experts in child safety and development. They talked about a profound transformation in the children, especially when placed in contrast to the carefree beginnings of the parents. The children have also shared their thoughts about the overpowering attraction towards their devices, the pressures these devices place on them in their daily lives, and the challenge they face when they try to abandon them altogether. The kids are being a victim of issues like cyberbullying, online predators, suicidal ideation, and more. With exceptional clarity, the documentary diagnosis the scope of the dilemma and addresses the requirement to slow down and take stock before we reach a point of no return.

  • The Great Hack (2019)

The Great Hack

The Great Hack tries to get to the bottom of a data humiliation that happened in 2018. Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, was in news a lot in 2018. As per the news, Facebook had traded the personal information of its millions of users without their consent to the data company. Its agenda was targeted towards political advertising, which elevated fingers on the ethicality of Facebook's privacy policy. The documentary presents an explanation for the dishonour by displaying accounts by professor David Carroll, British investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr, and former business development director for Cambridge Analytica, Brittany Kaiser.

  • The Creepy Line (2018)  

The Creepy Line

"A film that Google would not want you to see" - Best for Fest. The Creepy Line reveals that how society is manipulated by Google and Facebook and the power of the tech giants which is not in control of national government legislation. The title is culled from a quote of Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, “The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” The documentary shows the discussion about data privacy and control further than ever before by examining what Google and Facebook do once, they control a user’s data. The data were used and sold for multiple purposes, such as marketing, mould, massage and manipulate the public consciousness while influencing opinion on a vast scale. The goal of doing all this is to transform society to fit their worldview. 

  • The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

The Internet Boy

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is a biographical documentary of an American computer programming genius and Internet activist Aaron Swartz. It follows the story from Swartz's assistance in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. However, Swartz’s revolutionary effort for social justice and political organization come together with his aggressive approach to information access. It apprehended him in a two-year legal nightmare. The war had ended with his own life at the age of 26. The story hit a nerve with people of the online communities as well as beyond it. It clarifies the idea of what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

“While we think these platforms are connecting us to the world, they’re actually separating us from reality. Each of us lives and learns inside a personalized filter bubble that changes – and radicalizes – how we function in society.” – Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma Director. 

Indeed, documentaries are appreciable to explore the dark side of technology and social media. It’s scary considering some of the situations are highly relatable. But these documentaries made us question things that have been so normalised. It is important to limit our dependence on social media platforms and the need to live life outside of the screen too. It is always better to look before you leap.