For Student Discussions:

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma (2020)

The full-length movie “The Social Dilemma” is an ideal candidate to accomplish this task. “The Social Dilemma” emphasizes how easily people are manipulated by machine algorithms and notifications to spend much more time online than they might wish, and to “feed the platform” in the same addictive way that gamblers feed coins into slot machines.

In “The Social Dilemma” students will encounter ex-tech executives decrying the systems they have built, a tween girl despondent at a comment about her ears, and a teen boy roped into an astro-turfed conspiracy group called the “Extreme Center”. In between scenes, teachers should facilitate student-led discussion about their own experiences on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat (or whatever platforms they currently favor).

The Social Dilemma is only available via Netflix.


  • Story line of focus family engages students

  • Personified algorithm conveys paradigm

  • Spotlight on effects on insecure tweens/teens

  • Includes Discussion and Action Guide


  • Television and radio's role not emphasized

  • Sensationalized "horror movie" approach

  • Problem of data privacy is not explored

  • Transcript is only from a third party. Why?


Use The Social Dilemma in middle and high school classes.

The dramatizations, visualizations and metaphors help introduce how ads fund social media, pushing them to do anything to predict behavior and maintain engagement, and to develop AI to mine use data to control of human behavior. The impact of social media on tween and teen self image is well dramatized, as is its role as a misinformation amplifier.

Use the Discussion and Action Guide to parse out topics and pause the video in 15-minute segments to follow with student-led discussions. Use "exit ticket" formative assessment to monitor student understanding of each discussion topic and reinforce with presentations in following class.

To contextualize misinformation's origins, dynamics, and role in Trump-era politics and society, consider the movie TrustMe.