Although it was first produced in 2014, Generation Like is an incredibly insightful and prescient take on the social media phenomenon.
It's a culture that has since become a dominating factor in the lives of young people. Human interaction has morphed into something impersonal and driven almost solely by a need for instant justification. The number of likes a teen may gather for a social media post can determine their inherent sense of self-worth. Among other ill effects, this activity has given rise to a heightened level of online bullying.
What has all of this done to the mental and emotional development of our teens? The film only touches upon this question in passing. Mostly, it's concerned with how modern apps have managed to feed this cultural beast. In the most profound transformation in the history of advertising, the corporate structure now wants us to become addicted to likes, follows, and retweets. The more likes and users that gather on any given platform translate into annual revenues exceeding billions of dollars. Lured by the promise of self-empowerment, young audiences have taken the bait.
In some cases, users can actually enjoy their own share of those profits. Popular teens can become social media influencers, and rake in significant income from corporate sponsors and video views. The more extreme, demeaning, or dangerous the post, the more likely it is to earn advertiser dollars. These influencers have changed the definition of what it means to be famous. Some users who became hooked on the platforms from an early age are now the new corporate heads and have earned millions of dollars in their early twenties.
The filmmakers interview journalists, advertising experts, and everyday kids who have found purpose (and in some cases, employment) through their use of the social media medium. It's largely an upbeat portrait of a culture that most of us share. But it manages to touch upon the dark underbelly for a few fleeting moments, such as the profile of an eighth-grade girl whose mother admits that the most popular photos of her daughter are full body bikini shots. It's a level of pervasive queasiness that both mother and child are willing to tolerate.