Discussion Guide for Families and Educators

The Social Dilemma, a Netflix documentary film that explains how social media harms our mental health, relationships, and democracy

Why Host a Film Discussion?

While, of course, social media has its benefits, it has also taken over young people’s relationships and is constructing their daily reality—homework, weekend plans, flirting, friendship, their sense of self and belonging—all within a system that is designed to capture and monetize our attention.

Technology was playing a dominant role in young people’s lives before COVID. Now, without us asking for it, our relationship with technology has shifted radically. We need a space to understand what that shift means.

How To Host A Discussion

  1. ORGANIZE: Ask around at your school, parents’ association, classroom parents, or among friends who are parents to gauge interest in co-hosting a discussion.
  2. GRAB A DATE: Identify a date for a virtual discussion.
  3. SEND AN INVITE: Send an invitation to your friends or school community. If it’s helpful, use or adapt the template below..
  4. HOST YOUR EVENT: Host a discussion on Zoom or another platform where people can share their personal experience. We recommend structuring the event like a book club discussion in which people view the film on their own time and then come together to discuss it. A simultaneous screening may be more difficult to coordinate. Open the event by showing the trailer in case some participants weren’t able to watch the film.
  5. BE INCLUSIVE: Unfortunately there is no legal way for families without Netflix subscriptions to stream the film. Until in-person screenings are a possibility it may be best to structure discussions that do not assume that all families can afford Netflix in order to see the film.

Sample Discussion Questions

Were there particular moments in the film that resonated with your experience?

The film highlights how social media distorts our view of ourselves, our relationships, and our broader reality. Have you experienced that distortion, if so how?

In the film, the case is made that human willpower can’t be expected to compete with some of the most sophisticated AI on the planet. What can we do to develop healthy relationships with technology?

How can we make sure that other families, teachers, and school leadership understand these issues?

Sample Invitation Language

To: [Head of School / Parents Association / Classroom Parents / Parents],
Subject: Screening and discussion of The Social Dilemma

Dear [School / Parents],

I recently watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma (here’s the trailer).

Like so many of us, I’ve been feeling concerned about the impact of social media for a while now. This documentary completely transformed my understanding of just how dangerous these platforms are for all of us, but especially for young people. This is social media’s Big Tobacco moment.

I think it’s so important that our parents, teachers, and school discuss this film. Can we host a discussion? The Center for Humane Technology offers some simple planning resources. I’m happy to help organize.

Would you recommend this guide to a friend?