“Disconnect”: The Loneliness of the Social Media User

Tablets, smart phones, and social networks all promise better opportunities to connect and stay connected. Yet what they really do is replace face-to-face interactions and disguise our growing inability to trust others. According to recent surveys, at any given moment, sixty million Americans–or 20 percent of the population–feel sufficiently isolated to report that loneliness is a major source of unhappiness. Have we arrived at a new kind of consciousness in which electronic interfaces receive most of our attention to the detriment of real interpersonal communication and empathy? Prometheus Books, regarding Giles Slade’s The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness (2012)

Technology and loneliness: these are the themes of the new film Disconnect, written by Andrew Stern and directed by Henry Alex Rubin.

The Movie Tagline: Look up.

The Plot:

John Horn, Los Angeles Times:

Constructed around three interwoven stories, ‘Disconnect’… tries to dramatize how technology is fracturing human relationships. Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard play a troubled couple who are victimized by an identity thief. The lonely son (Jonah Bobo) of a Blackberry-addicted dad (Jason Bateman) is cyberbullied with tragic consequences. And an ambitious television reporter (Andrea Riseborough) tries to advance her career by exploiting a runaway boy (Max Thieriot) who performs sex chats.

The Technology Issue:

Richard Roeper, rogerebert.com:

People fall in love, exploit one another, reveal their deepest secrets and even commit felonious acts — all before there’s a single face-to-face meeting. That’s hardly a dramatic leap, given that in the real world, an All-American football player and a nationwide media were convinced the football player had a loving, caring girlfriend who died from cancer — a girlfriend he’d never actually met in person, because it turns out she didn’t exist.

We’re supposedly more cynical and more sophisticated, and we’re certainly more technologically savvy (at an increasingly younger age) than any generation in history — yet we’re still so gullible and naive we’re actually surprised to learn social media sites are monitoring every link we click, every ‘Like’ we like, every product we Instagram.

The Loneliness Issue:

Alan Ravitz, psychiatrist, The Huffington Post: “Some are lonely because they’re narcissistic, others because they’re injured, or depressed, or rejected. The narcissists don’t know they need anyone until it’s too late; the rest just aren’t strong enough to assert their needs.”

The Compelling Trailer:

Selected Reviewers Sum It Up

Alan RavitzThe Huffington Post: “It’s a film about interpersonal intimacy, or the lack thereof, in an age of deceptively easy communication, a world in which we can hide in the noise we create. This isn’t an easy movie, but it’s well worth watching. You’re not going to walk away ‘feeling good,’ as they say, but you will walk away feeling something.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “It’s 2013: A Cyperspace Odyssey, a techno-thriller driven by genuine feeling.”

Stephen Holden, New York Times:

Those proficient with Facebook, Twitter, Skype, webcams and smartphones may find ‘Disconnect’ too obvious and blithely dismiss its alarmist attitude as fuddy-duddy…

It is useful to remember how television was once routinely blamed for devouring people’s attention and destroying communication. You don’t hear the term ‘boob tube’ much anymore. I suspect that similar alarms raised about the dangers of texting will eventually subside. What really matters is that whether the platform is television or the Internet, our technology is only as good or evil as the uses we put it to.

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