Our daily lives are so intertwined with technology that you’d be hard pressed to find a current movie that doesn’t feature some kind of social media, digital device or online interaction. Much like anything in real life, the portrayal of these things on the big screen are not always realistic. If you are trying to learn more about how social media works, how people use or how it affects us, these are the 6 best movies I have found that sum that up.
Catfish (2010, Documentary)
Premise: Nev, a 24 year old, meets a girl through Facebook who he believes to be an attractive 20-something woman. After developing a lengthy relationship online, Nev decides to travel to meet her in person only to discover that she is not at all what she claimed to be.
Social Media Memes: Catfishing
Should you watch it? This was the movie that coined the term ‘catfish’, which is someone who pretends to be someone they are not on social media. The movie was so popular that it spawned a series on MTV with the same name. It’s actually a decent movie and worth watching if you are curious about how Facebook works or how easy it is to dupe someone online.
Cyberbully (2011, Drama)
Premise: Taylor, an average teenager, gets a laptop for her 17th birthday and joins some social media sites. She meets a boy online who later spreads nasty rumours about her. She does not know that account is a fake account run by a girlfriend. Humiliated by people bulling her online, she decides to take her own life.
Social Media Memes: Catfishing, cyberbullying
Should you watch it? This movie is based on a story of a real girl whose female friend and mom created a fake account in a boy’s name and then bullied her until she committed suicide.
Though the technology in this film is slightly dated, it is worth watching to see the process by which she quickly becomes bullied and how easy it is to happen under a parent’s nose. Caveat: it was a TV movie originally, so maybe not Oscar caliber acting or writing.
Disconnect (2012, Drama)
Premise: Many intertwining lives are affected by computer use and social media. A grieving couple has their identity stolen from a support chat room. A reporter attempts to help a boy caught in an online porn ring. A boy creates a fake online account to mess with an uncool kid. The second boy attempts suicide after a private picture of him goes viral.
Social Media Memes: the viral photo, catfishing, identity theft, online porn
Should you watch it? The tagline for this movie is “searching for human connections in today’s wired world”. This movie does not have happy endings but it does highlight well what happens when you let down your guard online. The victim in each story desperately reaching out online because they have lost connections in real life. In each case, anonymity is abused or lost. Worth watching to better understand privacy online.
Men, Women, Children (2014, Drama)
Premise: A community of adults and teens navigate their online lives. From the unhappy married couple looking for love online, to the mom who monitors every one of her child’s keystrokes, to teenagers addicted to gaming and online porn.
Social Media Memes: Online porn, online gaming addiction, infidelity websites, parental controls
Should you watch it? This one is by far my favourite. It was an indy movie but is very well written, acted and executed. It covers a variety of issues in today’s digital world as well as the pros and cons of all of them. Again, not necessarily a happy movie, but a good examination of current life. And Jennifer Garner is the epitome of helicopter parent.
Unfriended (2014, Thriller/Horror)
Premise: A year after a girl commits suicide from cyberbullying, six of her friends meet to online video chat only to be haunted digitally by her presence.
Social Media Memes: The viral video, Teens online
Should you watch it? This one was a guilty pleasure. It is the quintessential teen horror flick, so not a great movie BUT the best executed from the point of view of the teenager. The entire film is from the main character’s screen. You can see how quickly teens go from video chat, to text chat, to Spotify (music), to YouTube etc. Amazing insight in to the way digital natives live within the screen. The backstory also involves a girl who has an embarrassing video go viral which causes her to be bullied and take her own life.
Smosh: The Movie (2015, Comedy)
Premise: Right before their 10 year high school reunion, Anthony finds an embarrassing video on YouTube that he wants removed. He and his friend Ian travel inside YouTube to find the video and remove it.
Social Media Memes: YouTubers
Should you watch it? Over the last 5 years we have seen the rise of YouTubers; people who make their careers and fame from posting YouTube videos. The stars of this film, Ian and Anthony are the members of SMOSH, currently rated as the third most popular YouTube channel with over 20 million subscribers. Through out the movie they also feature other famous YouTubers like Jenna Marbles.
I will be honest, this is not my kind of movie. I definitely felt old watching it. That said, this is the world of the YouTuber. You can see the types of videos that have gone viral and what kids are watching when they spend hours online. You probably don’t even need to watch the whole movie but a glimpse of it will give you an idea of how it works.