Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ joins the ranks of monumental documentaries that have become synonymous with the platform over the last few years, and why not? There’s no better way to encapsulate the essence of a story than a well-rounded documentary. Social media has been a talking point ever since its inception, and while its availability gratifies mankind, our debilitating dependency on it simply remains undeniable. Created by Jeff Orlowski, ‘The Social Dilemma’ explores how addiction and privacy breaches are features and not bugs, of social media platforms.
The documentary goes an extra explainer-mile by including snippets of interviews of a few people who helped build social media and now fear the effects of their creation on users’ mental well-being. If you’ve devoured ‘The Social Dilemma’ and are itching to see more such impactful documentaries, we have your back. While most documentaries included in this list make a case for keeping the Internet at arm’s length, if only to protect your mental health, we’ve also let slip a few entries that are equally thought-provoking and influential.
7. The American Meme (2018)
‘The American Meme’ highlights the current world of internet fame and celebrity culture, and it offers a poignant insight into the lives of those who’ve turned social media into the arena for their own commodification and veneration. The documentary features extended interviews with a few of the more ubiquitous internet celebrities of recent years. It lets us in on their hustle to build empires or rather get that revered blue tick, along with the monetary and personal gains attached to living on Instagram’s feed.
6. Startup.com (2001)
Released during the early internet days, ‘Startup.com’ examines the troubled state of the Internet revolution, in which harsh economic realities and broken promises have superseded extravagant ideals and dreams of instant wealth. Graced with raw storytelling and an intimate cinéma-vérité style, the documentary also manages to personalize this crisis with penetratingly private views of the people involved. As the story progresses, you’ll witness that ‘Startup.com’ is a voyeur’s outlook of the saying that no good deed goes unpunished.
5. Our Planet (2019)
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, a world-renowned natural historian and broadcaster, ‘Our Planet’ is a British documentary film that provides a thought-provoking and meticulously researched account of our complicity in the decline of nature. Created from the collective efforts of a 600-member crew that worked for more than 3,500 filming days across 50 countries, this documentary will make you not just appreciate the magnificence of mother nature but also take a hard look at the precarious ways we’ve been treating her. You’ll be left with nothing but a burst of inspiration to preserve it as well.
4. The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin (2014)
‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ provides a vignette of various ways that Bitcoin, a form of open-source digital currency, can be used. By using Bitcoin, transactions can quickly be sent over the Internet. They are logged in a public ledger known as the blockchain. The documentary spans multiple years, tracing the currency’s evolution from the first global Bitcoin transaction in 2010 through its exponential growth in 2013. ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ is an exemplary introduction for those unfamiliar with the digital currency.
3. Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)
Filmmaker Cullen Hoback brings to light the erosion of online privacy and what personal information governments and various online companies – be they Internet service providers, e-commerce websites, search engines, or social media networks – are legally taking from citizens on the daily. ‘Terms and Conditions May Apply’ investigates the repercussions of our casual surrender every time we innocuously click on the ‘Agree’ button on those dense, and typically unread, online user contracts. The content of this quietly blistering documentary is an eye-opener and should rile even the most passive viewer.
2. Period. End of Sentence. (2018)
‘Period. End of Sentence.’ is an inspiring and educational documentary that broaches a much-needed conversation about women’s health in rural Indian communities, where menstruation, to this day, is a taboo topic. It follows a group of women in rural India who create their own low-cost feminine hygiene products and strengthen their financial independence. The Academy Award-winning documentary brings awareness by shedding light on the stigma around menstruation in the country where 23% of girls drop out of school once they have their periods.
1. The Great Hack (2019)
Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, ‘The Great Hack’ chronicles the highly contentious Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. It takes the viewers on how this data company came to symbolize the grim side of social media in the wake of the 2016 United States Presidential Elections as disclosed by journalist Carole Cadwalladr. By offering a window into data-led decisions made by mammoth organizations, the documentary throws light on the way it is weaponized for political gain and what it might mean for the future. This is a wake-up call about why we should be paying close attention to this matter. So, if you haven’t watched it already, we recommend you add it to your list right away!