By Marybeth Bock

If you haven’t already seen the Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma,”you need to check it out. SOON.

Because if you are like most teens – and adults – you have probably felt addicted to your phone, and to social media apps, at some point in the last few years.

And you’ve also probably felt a little bit uneasy after you’ve Googled a product, and then see ads for it and for similar items, on multiple social media platforms the next time you log onto them.

Many of us are vaguely aware that social media tracks our every keystroke, but we might be incredibly surprised at how all that information is used, and how it ends up manipulating our behaviors and our thoughts.

“The Social Dilemma” takes a deep dive into the how being a user of the software that platforms like Google, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube employ, impacts our families, our country, and even our world.One of the most interesting things about this documentary, is that it is full of interviews from some of the very people who helped create the software and the companies that collect our data and use it to manipulate us.

Many of these former and current tech executives speak about coming to realizations that the work that they had been doing at companies like Facebook and Pinterest caused them to experience a moral dilemma about their part in controlling the behavior of so many people.

While we all can admit that there are some wonderful things about social media and the software that runs apps like Uber and Snapchat, there are also serious downsides. “The Social Dilemma” is technically a “docudrama” and it tries to personalize its message using a fictitious family – one that is representative of what many of us have encountered in our own lives.

Two of the teenagers in this family display addictive behaviors when it comes to their smartphones and social media. They experience things that most teens deal with constantly: the urgent need to check their social media throughout the day; feelings of sadness when a “friend” makes a hurtful comment on what they’ve posted;jealousy over viewing others doing things they’re not; and feeling confused about “news” events that may or may not be fully factual.

While these dramatic parts of the show can seem a bit cheesy, they’re helpful because they force us to take a look at ourselves and how our screen time not only affects our family and friend relationships, but also what some of the potential outcomes could be, if we fall prey to misinformation and hate-speech that is all over social media.

Because 2020 is such an unprecedented year, with both a global pandemic and an American presidential election, we are spending more time than ever online. We all need to be fully aware that what we are seeing and hearing, is extremely manipulated.

Please watch and discuss this eye-opening documentary with your family.


Marybeth Bock, MPH, has logged time as an Army wife, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Phoenix and you can find her writing on multiple parenting sites.