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Social media replacing Documentary Media?

Have social media, twitter especially, replace the purpose of Documentary Films?

It seems in today's world the speed at which information is spreading is almost instant. The documentary films were made to show and educate people about current events or stories that need to be told. Documentary Films still do that but has its effectiveness shrank due to the instant news presentation on social media?

With the world evolving into the digital realm, fewer people are watching news or documentary films as the previous generations have. The attention span of the digital age has made documentary films less engaging and less popular.

Documentary Film and Documentary platforms.

Although documentary films have the power to spark social and political change, their creation process is too slow. This is not necessarily a bad thing because of a slow process, most of the time means more detailed and more influencing product. The flaws that hinder documentary films to be as trendy as social media, is its reaction time to exhibit its point of view. Things are changing all the time, trends are coming and going from one day to the other. Of course, if there is a historic problem that has been not been solved, documentary films can also add to their point of view.

Lack of marketability

Another problem is its marketability. Very few films have enough budget or advertising capabilities. Although a documentary can be very influential, that does not mean it will be viewed enough to make a specific change. The silver lining is that since the world has become more online, it is easier to focus on online advertising. However, this assumes the production or the producer has enough money to pay for these advertising benefits. Competition is at its peak regarding online advertising with Amazon, Netflix, and many production studios. And even if the documentary is taken by a major distributor, the odds are high but it is not guaranteed to be viewed.


The job of documentary media is to present facts. But it is the interpretation of facts and the confirmation bias that distort those facts. Having a production company to take on the distribution of the documentary also has some flaws in it. Documentary filmmakers have to be careful about which company they give their film rights to. The bigger the company, the more political motive they have. So as long as your political motive matches with their's it shouldn't be a problem. Documentation media has been less trustworthy over the years as mainstream media has practically split into the two political parties. It is hard for people to believe what is real because the manipulation of information and its perceived truth is distorted to fit the company's political view. If the documentary film is produced by one of the news media or strongly affiliated with a political party, it is almost guaranteed that the content will be molded to fit the narrative of the affiliated political party. The editing capabilities especially in the documentary is to amplify the point of view of the director or producer. This can be used for the right reason but it can also be so far from the "truth." There are different levels of biases, from minor ones to major ones especially at the top of media. The Loan wolves of documentary films are rare and they do need support from those who have the power to distribute them. Luckily we have those filmmakers such as Ava Duvernay to promote those voices and craft that need to be heard.

Films are made to make a profit, and that includes Documentary Films and documentary platforms. Unfortunately, to make a profit, the film needs to easily marketable. There are positive aspects that should be used to market an inherently unbiased film, but that's rarely the case and unbiased documentary films don't exist.

They don't exist because if it's made by people it will have biases, that's just unavoidable. Speculative information and deceitful editing can make an argument so strong that the audience watching will be emersed and convinced of its perceived truth. I learned this when I watch a fake documentary of a man discovering a completely intact dragon fossil. There are also many shows like finding bigfoot and ghost hunting, that despite the lack of scientific evidence, it received well with its audience.

The fallacy of the Human Mind

That brings up a philosophical view of how the human mind is easily persuaded and convinced. This fallacy of the human mind is unavoidable and production companies know how to take advantage of this to almost unethical levels. But as in most things, if it makes money and it doesn't hurt anyone, it is good for business. It may be unethical but taking advantage of the insufficiency of human nature is used all the time. Marketing toys, marketing cars, marketing products that people don't need to survive. So to regulate all these means regulating human nature which is unethical. Free will does not excuse you from being perceptive to manipulation especially in today's society. Profit in any type is the goal of most social interaction. To be introspective, my intention for this article is to shed light on Documentary profit and its ineffectiveness compared to social media. I do have a point of view, whether it is correct is up to you. I do not hope for profit in this platform, although it would be nice to have.

Social Media

Twitter has been a part of most people's lives; even the pope has a twitter. Professions that require public relations has social media. When everyone has equal rights to be on the same platform, it creates an environment never seen before. With the whole world connected through one app, information can spread like wildfire. This can have polarizing effects but at least it is controlled by the people. It is easier to see the mistakes in people in social media than the careful manipulation of edited and planned media. Twitter amplifies the cause and effect of interactions, increasing the likelihood of confirmation bias, and susceptibility to mental damage. But this amplification can make an individual stronger, having been exposed to more interactions than ever before. This strength people gain can be used to unite us towards a needed cause.

Can be less biased

Although social media can be very toxic and very bias considering people can have a voice without factual premises, I argue that is can be less biased. With the freedom for anyone to say their opinion with the protection of hiding their identity and their physical location, both sides can diffuse itself. Unlike biased news stations and production companies, twitter is a platform where different sides of the argument can be seen. If someone is careful enough to read into both arguments, the information can be less biased. Instead of being persuaded or pursued into confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, many perspectives can be seen. Only the most popular twitter celebrities will indeed have the most influence but it doesn't mean an average person's tweet cannot gain as much influence as celebrities' tweets. Some opinions are just factually wrong, like the flat earthers and other scientifically falsified claims, but some people can comment and can establish a popular opinion. I know that popular opinion does not necessarily mean it justifies its truth, but it can point to the direction of truth. It requires a very patient and careful person to weed out the bad information from the useful ones. The unbiased characteristics of social media come from the fact that the environment is controlled by the people and not institutions. When a platform is controlled by the people, those who seek to take advantage of the people are easily called out and face economic and reputable losses.

Speed of information

Breaking news on news outlets is not as fast as some news on social media. Twitter has somewhat given people obligations and responsibilities for posting something that is considered news. Obligations and responsibilities. People taking videos from their phones have been shown in a bad light, but documenting in most situations does more good than bad. It also prevents the distortion of memory when you try to explain the situation to officials. The speed of social media has been its most valuable contribution to society. It can give live updates on certain subjects that most news media won't dedicate enough screen time for it. During catastrophic incidence, it helps people notify their relatives or loved ones about their safety. Even my fiance uses twitter as her main source of news because it is easily accessible on her phone and it gives live updates. Experts and professionals on the subject of the video can evaluate it faster. More importantly, it notifies everyone from any sort of danger. The speed alone can make most tv news outlets a run for their money. Luckily for them, they embrace twitter and make it a part of their repertoire. News outlets even use social media as their source for breaking news. Will news stations still be relevant in the future even though they are only a secondary source for news? I believe we still need dedicated pages for news and news station's social media platforms can be its new home. I do believe that Cablevision news and newspaper will be less useful in the future as it becomes dwarfed by the speed and convenience of social media.

Can support unpopular opinions

Anyone can have a popular tweet if they get lucky enough to be recognized by other people and retweeted exponentially. There is still a big separation between the verified accounts and everyone else but twitter has a way for a normal person's tweet to become popular. This is especially important to regulate the environment if they can stomach the toxicity and the uncensored nature of twitter. This is also important for pointing out corruption and wrongdoings. If the tweet carries a socially impactful opinion or an opinion that is unrecognized, it can gain popularity and spark a conversation. With everyone playing in the same medium, a voice can gain more attention on social media than in real life. Anyone can call out a company for their mistreatment of workers, or political beliefs and the company cannot do anything about that person's tweet. This gives power to the people, and in a way keeps in check the public persona of a company. The information doesn't necessarily be correct, but at least the freedom of speech is preserved. These unpopular opinions can become popular with the right circumstances. Politicians and companies have to tend more their public looks in social media where they are exposed to the wrath and support of the people. This gave some power back to the people, and what we're seeing now with the 2020 protests, we need to give our many thanks to social media.

Is Documentary becoming less effective?

It's no question that social media is more effective in social movement and news than documentary films. Now the question is, is documentary films becoming less important. I think in situations where a speedy reaction is needed, documentary media, and especially documentary films crumble. They survive by participating in social media.

We still need documentary media for the more official news regarding the government, big events, and special access that only more established companies have access to. But even then, the company or establishment itself can cover their public affairs without news outlets. The space launch of 2020, was broadcasted by SpaceX after jurisdiction of coverage changed from news outlets to private coverage. The coverage of the pope giving mass had some coverage by news outlets but was then transferred to the Vatican's broadcast platform. Anyone can cover their own events making it hard for news outlets to find content to broadcast for themselves.

Documentary films will thrive after months or years after the incident. They will provide more in-depth and complicated topics that can strengthen the view. When a topic has many controversies and political clouding, it becomes hidden and masked in the social media environment. Documentary films can clarify confusion and create a clear view of the topic. Yes, the filmmaker and the film will be biased to elicit an emotional response, but to some that try to be just and expose malpractice or corruption, it becomes a positive contribution to society. Blackfish is an obvious example of how a documentary film exposes the maltreatment of its animals. Others like Ava Duvernay's 13th or Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro, further exposes the racial profiling of blacks within the American system. Documentation of the status of different countries during wartime can diffuse the propaganda that the home country uses to justify its reason for war and conflict. News on Syria during the middle eastern war can humble everyone and fight to stop the killing of innocent lives.

They will also thrive with case studies of a specific person or event. Not just important people but also showing the life of a normal working individual. Bringing points of view and life interpretations that are different from the social norms of urban life.

I am, however, skeptical in its reach to the younger generations as attention span in the population shortens. Documentary films are sometimes very long, and it should be if it elaborates and explains its topic carefully. I hope with a strong movement and increase interest in the topic, documentary films can have as much of an impact on social movements, exposing corruption, and sharing different points of view as the intention of its production.

Documentary films and Documentary media are essential tools for people to regulate the power of those in higher political power. It only takes one strong opposing evidence to negate an established theory. Although this does not mean, people would be convinced of the many wrongdoings of people in power, it is a chance to share our voices and to support each other in times of need.

Nyv Mercado

Level Nine Productions

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