'The Social Dilemma' and 5 More Mind-blowing Documentaries To Stream On Netflix

We know that social media is addictive and can affect our mental health, but to what extent was it designed that way on purpose? That's the question driving The Social Dilemma, the must-see Netflix documentary about how these platforms are affecting our mental health and the very foundations of democracy. 

Directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, it is just one of the documentaries on Netflix that look at the intersection of science, technology and nature, and the way that we interact with the world around us. From the dark side of social media to alien conspiracies and flat Earth theorists, be wowed by these six mind-blowing documentaries available to stream on Netflix now.

The Social Dilemma

Interviews with former insiders at the world's biggest social media companies offer unprecedented insight into the dark side of addictive and invasive tech. One of those insiders is Tristan Harris, who invented Apple's "Spotlight for Help" feature and worked as Google's Design Ethicist and Product Philosopher. "If the product is free, you're the product," he reminds us in the film.

The Great Hack

This 2019 documentary investigates the largest known Facebook leak in history—the 2018 Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data breach that led to millions of Facebook users' personal data being harvested without consent for the purposes of political advertising, leading to Brexit and Trump. The film focuses on David Carroll (a college professor), Brittany Kaiser (former business development director for Cambridge Analytica) and investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr, whose stories intertwine to expose the seedy side of data collection in a digital world.

Connected: The Hidden Science of Everything

Journalist and Radiolab's research director Latif Nasser investigates all of the ways in which we are connected to each other and the world around us in this 2020 docuseries. Across six episodes, we learn how the migration patterns of a tiny bird in one part of the world can predict the severity of the upcoming hurricane season, and that human facial recognition technology is also being used on pigs. There is so much packed into each episode of this beautifully made docuseries, and by the end you'll have enough fun facts to pull out next time there's an awkward silence on a group Zoom call.

Behind the Curve

Did you know that there are people who staunchly believe that the Earth is flat? This fascinating documentary focuses on some of those people, including astrophysicists from big universities like UCLA and Caltech. Behind the Curve also features clips from the 2017 International Flat Earth Conference, where advocates explain their theory and allow some insight into what has led them to believe what they do. Director Daniel J. Clark has said in an interview that he hopes viewers come to the film with some empathy for its subjects: "My dream would be that when people watch it, they take flat Eartherism as an analogy to something they believe in, because it's so easy to [demonise] another group or another person for something they think but you're kind of just as guilty if you do that."

Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers

Bob Lazar is a controversial name in the world of UFOs—he's the reason we know anything about Area 51, the top secret US Air Force facility in Nevada believed to house crashed alien spacecrafts and nefarious weather control technology. Lazar claims to have been hired int he 1980s to work at Area 51 and has seen alien crafts and government briefing documents that confirm not only the existence of aliens but also their involvement in human affairs over the past 10,000 years. This documentary explains the conspiracy theorist's claims and includes rare footage that will have you saying "I Want to Believe" and binge-watching The X-Files.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Treat this documentary like a palette cleanser, offering a more positive outlook on how to exist in the world without losing your mind. Minimalism follows a group of American authors, podcasters, filmmakers and public speakers called The Minimalists. Together, they promote a minimalist lifestyle to millions of people around the world in a way that would sound doable even to the average stuff-loving person who gets a little high with every online shopping transaction they make. The film includes interviews with sociology professor Juliet Schor and renowned neuroscientist Sam Harris, who work to put the minimalist ethos into practical context.

Enjoyed this? Here are 7 feel-good reality shows to stream on Netflix.

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