on 22 January 2014
Beeban Kidron's documentary searches the nature of the social media industry and not the least of its merits is the list (of shame) of multi-nationals who declined to participate: Facebook, Google, Blackberry, Twitter, Yahoo, Apple. One strand the director investigates is the software out there - the apps especially - which harvests personal data and uses it to capture you in every stage of your journey through life, to sell you what it decides you need, and to congratulate and affirm you - 'like' you - when you correctly follow its remorseless logic. It's well known that one can download either the free version of an app or the full, and if you select the latter you benefit by avoiding intrusive adverts. One of Kidron's wonderful array of sceptical experts - surely the wisest forum of talking heads ever assembled on the subject - utters the warning: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product.
The movie is very frank, the testimony of the young people searingly honest. It's not all that easy to watch: the young girl who sold herself to an older guy to get a new Blackberry when hers was lost, who then pleasured five men when one of them pinched that phone and would only return it for a price. She tells her story with a frightening matter-of-factness. There's Ryan and his mate, young teenagers alone in Ryan's bedroom, who speak frankly about their porn addiction, and how it has altered them psychically in their relations with women of their own age - with what future consequences, who can tell?
The documentary goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being, asks crucial questions, and offers tentative advice. It's required viewing, period, but in particular for parents and those in positions of trust around children. New technology is useful and even liberating, yes, its gadgets are alluring, of course, and no one disputes that our lives can be the better for them. But there's a terribly dark side: if we are asked simply to adapt to the world of social media and get on with it, what price are we paying? When we adapt, we alter as persons; but are we losing something precious in the exchange?
Kidron looks unflinchingly at addiction, the physical dangers, gaming, violent pornography, confidentiality and privacy, 'sharing', anonymity, bullying, suicide, the commercial dishonesty and secrecy. She considers the atomising of family life, of the dynamics in and out of the home between parent and child. Parents, watch this film and ask yourselves what example you set your children. The age-old rhythms and rituals of family life stand little chance against the lure of smart phone and pad, which are gateways to hitherto unimagined worlds. How can thinking, loving parents contend for the very lives of their children against such a drug, especially one disguised as a useful aid? Upsetting arguments used to centre on your child's wanting a TV in his bedroom; forget that, dad, that's a lost golden age: now that he has his smart phone (most are smart) and his pad (so useful for homework, mum), new and uncharted worlds are his to explore, alone, impressionable, searching, vulnerable.
By the way, the bonus section (Deleted Scenes) contains slightly longer clips from many of the experts Kidron persuaded to participate: there you'll find some of the most thrilling insights, reasoned argument, and useful advice anywhere on the subject. If you acquire only one DVD this century, make it this one. And pass it round your family & friends.
on 28 March 2015
Some of this was ok - I liked some of the argument, some of the sub-stories and other things, however it's credibility was lost in it's exceptional bias. I am not surprised many large companies declined to be interviewed. There is no point contributing to a project if your opinions are going to be ignored and warped and whatever you say is going to be manipulated in to serving the single sided view of the film maker. This is evident throughout the film and most clearly during the interview with EA where they take great efforts to overlay a boy who was kicked out of uni, apparently for playing games too much and not working with the views of an EA employee, who seems to be doing quite well for himself despite probably enjoying (and having enjoyed gaming) his entire career.
There are points where they do try to be balanced, but it is largely outweighed by the clear view the film maker holds that the internet is evil and anything to do with it is in some way contaminated. Thats the message I got from this piece and it's a shame because, yes there are issues and major ones that need to be highlighted and debated seriously, but when you merely go on the attack and present no argument other than targeted edits and "experts" from one side of the argument you completely invalidate any respectable opinion you may have had. It's also a shame because there were some real stories in there that needed to be heard like the boy who committed suicide from bullying and the two boys who found each other on the web and the poor girl who got attacked for her phone. However by isolating these examples and offering no other evidence than unreferenced statistics (these happen A LOT) I feel that their personal stories were some how lost amidst the efforts of the film maker to clearly use them for their own ends and not to benefit the subjects or do justice to them.
The pace of this thing was also laborious. Rather than flow from point to point, the film maker thought it necessary to fill the obvious holes with shots of server rooms and fibre cables, clearly in an attempt at a good analogy, but failing miserably as again they try and make these rooms and objects out to be the tools of the devil by over laying the "sound track to the end of the world"
There is some professional evidence. At least some of the people have "Professor" in their name, however I find it interesting that whenever there is a subject it's an English teenager, however they had to go to the US to find any "Expert", not sure why... perhaps there aren't enough "experts" here who enjoy the sound of their own voice as much and don't hold the capacity for spouting pseudo-science from their own self published novel (they all made points they were all authors of some kind - again all very one sided)
Overall I found this frustrating. I really wanted to like it, but the absence of balanced debate of such an important issue completely diluted the points raised and made it seem preachy and self indulgent.
Don't bother with it. There is better out there.