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Disconnect (2012), Searching (2018) Highlight Fundamental Western Problems

As we inch closer towards a new decade, this article will focus on one of the major innovations that the 2010s has brought to life in the movie industry. Recently I discovered a new type of film genre where they record the screens of a computer. A couple examples of this are the 2012 movie called Disconnect, and the 2018 movie Searching, which, instead of analysing the storyline of each movie and determining if the movies are good, this article will instead focus on the common theme they have regarding the family unit. What makes them interesting, besides the storyline, is the creative effort that is put into each; online conversations appear on the screen, the cursors are animated, and there are scenes of the protagonists with webcam software open, instead of a camera recording them using a computer from behind the screen.

I don't often watch Hollywood movies, they're too contrived for my liking. Instead, I opt to watch YouTube videos like a true Zoomer; mainly political videos, book reviews and Twitch highlight videos. I no longer enjoy watching the majority of the movies that are released because I can't help but analyse them for what subliminal message they are pushing and what the directors want me to accept and believe, instead of enjoying the story.

But these movies caught my attention one afternoon when my Internet was down. They highlight a major problem that is present in Western society: the breakdown of families partially caused by technology and the Internet. Parents often don’t know what their kids are doing online, who they are talking to or what they are being exposed to. If you have ever visited Liveleak, you know exactly what kind of content is on there; I watched explicit Liveleak videos whilst I was in high school, and know many others who did the same. I can confidently say that parents nowadays are left in the dark regarding what material they are being exposed to; some sources say the average age kids are exposed to pornography is between 8 and 11. Additionally, because teenagers find talking to their parents about sensitive issues about growing up a difficult thing, they often don’t know small bits of information about what their child likes, how they feel about life; if they're struggling with mental illness or bullying. Searching displays this issue perfectly when David, the father, discovers Margot, the daughter, is struggling with the death of her mother from cancer, and instead of confiding in her Dad, opts to express those feelings of sadness on her blog and on a livestreaming website. Teenagers are growing up online and learning who they want to be as a person via the Internet instead of from their family.

Both movies show the generational differences regarding knowledge about new apps, what websites are trendy, and the phenomena of using a blog as a substitute to a diary; teens are known to post too much personal information online. On a few occasions in both movies, the parents find themselves asking younger people what a certain website is and what you do on there. Disconnect shows the issue of Boomer Tech™ in a generation that didn't grow up with the Internet readily available, and thus don't know not to give out passwords and sensitive information like your bank details via email, which resulted in the loss of lots of money. The family unit these days can be a mutual offering of wisdom; young people can teach their parents about Internet etiquette the do's and don'ts, and the parents can offer wisdom about offline etiquette and how to become an upright and moral person.

Voluntary seclusion has gotten to a point where teenagers would rather stay in their rooms instead of be with their family, and couples, even in public, would prefer to be on their phones, inevitably causing relationship problems like cheating and resentment. This type of behaviour I'm sure is familiar to many people—I was secluded like this in my teens. Disconnect highlights this with the example of Ben and his love of making music. He becomes so enveloped in his own world he's created and his individualisation of the self, that his father has no idea that he has this passion. Ben comes from a family where his Dad works too much and doesn't focus on spending time with the family and raising his kids to have proper morals. Likewise with Searching, single parenthood and a busy work life creates a divide between parent and child where the teens aren't being honest and open with their parents, and the parents don't know their kids anymore. Ben ends up feeling alone, not knowing his parents care about him, and attempts to commit suicide. Instead of talking to people you don't truly know online about your problems, the movies subliminally suggest talking to your family and/or join a community group depending on your age and situation. I believe young people have chosen to become misled by not confiding in their family and choosing the Internet instead, and often have no real guidance in life, and no greater worldview to follow and believe in, which will offer a truer basis for great goals or surrogate activities.

Do I think the storylines are sensationalised? Sure, to a point, but the issues and situations that are present are real because these things do happen; catfishing is a big problem, and the desire to remain anonymous is a privilege that most perhaps don't deserve. Not having a healthy amount of scepticism about who you think you are talking to gets people killed. In Disconnect, Ben's Dad thinks he is talking to Jessica, but he is actually talking to Jason, the kid who is responsible for Ben's attempted suicide, and in Searching, Margot thinks 'fish_n_chips' is another girl around her age, but it's a guy who has had a crush on her for years and nearly kills her. There is a false sense of relatability anywhere you go online, where you come across people who you think you can relate to, but often aren't who they appear to be, so we trust that they're telling the truth about themselves; don’t trust everything you see on the Internet.

I have some solutions for these problems. Families should have dedicated 'family time' where no one is online and there is honest conversation with each other, perhaps even asking questions about each other such as favourite colours, music they're recently listening to and what books they like etc. Using technology less and developing a habit of checking your emails and social medias x times per day—that number can vary based on your job, can help in lessening your reliance on your devices. Employing a policy of honesty and openness to each other and having the mutual respect to not take the easy way out and lie. Find a community group of people based on mutual interests and adhering to a set of ideals or a worldview as the guiding basis for your life and your behaviour.

It is time for us to disconnect and become human again.


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