In a new film premiering on Dazed, a group of young people address their smartphone addiction and the isolation of online validation
Are you reading this on your phone right now? Today we spend half of our lives tweeting, snapping and Instagramming, and unsurprisingly it’s generating a shit load of new mental health problems.
In a short documentary entitled Synthetic Overture, in partnership with ZDDZ and premiering on Dazed, director Jovan Todorovic asks a group of young people to talk about their relationship with technology. Through a mix of video-diary footage and cinematic shots, the film presents two sides to each character – i.e. their alone selves, and their on-camera persona.
Shot in four countries, UK, USA, Austria and Russia, we get a glimpse into the online lives of young people across the globe. Regardless of location, our media pleasures and fears tend to align – namely that “internet, phones, electronics fuck up my social life.”
“For the emerging generation, online is a very natural state of being,” ZDDZ designer Dasha Selyanova said, “having anything on the tips of your fingers, expressing emotions in GIFs and 15-second videos. But are we happy? Are we sure our selves are our real identities?”
“My phone is almost an extension of myself, or it could be called a detachable organ” – Wilson Oryema
The characters in the film acknowledge this disparity between Instagram-self and actual self: “My online persona differs from me in the sense that my online persona is a much more extroverted person than I am.” And, as life is one big fucked-up circle of irony, this fake presentation of self-enhanced feelings of isolation, and can actually diminish your real sense of self.
They’ve all experienced ups and downs with technology. Some see a phone as “just a phone”, but for some there’s a much stronger bond. “My phone is almost an extension of myself,” model-slash-artist Wilson Oryema affirms, “or it could be called a detachable organ.”
According to a study back in March, those who spend more than two hours a day on social media sites are twice as likely to experience feelings of isolation. Speaking to Dazed, protagnoist Caley Holmboe – who's been off Facebook for seven years – said: "I was totally addicted to the validation I was getting online, and since my real life was actually falling apart, that facade was basically all I could hold on to."
Though ditching our devices isn't for all of us, Jana Zaharijević is optimistic she could survive without social media. "It would be fine," she told Dazed, "Long distance friendships and relationships would be harder, but I would feel more the places I’m in – the world would feel bigger again.”
Watch the film below: