A couple of days ago my Blackberry broke (temporarily) after yet another clumsy incident involving the juggling of a cup of tea and my trusty device. While the phone recovered I relied on an ancient Samsung and although I could access my emails on my laptop the moments spent away from my screen and without my smartphone were troubling. I now know why it’s called a Crackberry and why ‘Disconnect’, a film that highlights our hyper-connectivity strikes such a chord with me.
The film ‘Disconnect’ by Henry Alex Rubin (of ‘Girl Interrupted’ fame), sheds light on modern problems amplified by technology. The trailer shows a typical family meal setting, teenage son and father both glued to smartphones much to the dismay of wife and mother. This commonplace and now largely accepted variety of hyper-connectivity is scorned but is nothing compared to the issues faced by the family and others in the film. The issue of cyber-bullying is tackled from both the side of the bully and the bullied; a couple who have just lost a baby have their identities stolen along with their money due to the wife’s casual over-share on social media and on chat rooms and a reporter lands in hot water after a dalliance with an underage boy she meets on-line.
The interesting spin on relationship issues and age-old human questions around trust, respect, deceit and kindness take on a new flavour with the introduction of technology and the added dangers of this. In each case technology has exacerbated the issue, making the bad even worse where it is depended on rather than real human contact. The couple who lost their child retreat into the forgiving anonymity of chat rooms rather than spend time dealing with their loss together, this ultimately leads to risky communications as they let their guard down and unwittingly expose personal information on-line. Likewise, teenage bullies are able to take advantage of the long reach of the on-line world to target another boy, who used the internet as an escape from the loneliness of his real life rather than trying to remedy it in the real world.
The lure of being ‘connected’ proves to be the ultimate disconnect, breaking down physical relationships and giving the characters a sense of virtual community while preventing real relationships from flourishing. Anyone who goes through a spell of ‘disconnect’ (like I did when my smartphone was out of commission), will know the irrational feeling of isolation that comes with living just in the real world. This film makes a case for tangible reality – it may just be the safer option.