Technology grows and advances. With that comes our reliance to the screens that we interact with on a constant basis. The devices themselves have been designed to be fun, immersive experiences. But they have also shifted our social cues and hooked us on the never-ending well of online connections. Screened Out takes an extensive look at how our dependence on screens and online engagement has changed the way that we communicate with one another and the effect that we may be having on the next generation.
Directed by Jon Hyatt, Screened Out is a practical look at the ongoing, intimate relationship we have with our cellphones and its correlation with our mental, spiritual and social health. It never challenges the viewer to completely throw their smartphone away. But Hyatt’s argument clearly points to the fact that our time of use has gotten out of control. And, as a result, it is affecting us physically and emotionally. It examines issues of brain chemistry and its relation to addiction. Thus, Screened Out demonstrates the damage that can happen to our souls. We are unaware of how deeply we’re swimming in the digital pool.
Admittedly, none of that information is particularly new.
As a parent myself, I’ve heard time and again how we need to limit screen time for ourselves and our kids and the perils of screen addiction. Frankly, it’s not uncommon knowledge. What makes Screened Out fascinatingis its focus on how we have been manipulated to give up our freedom. We’ve even enjoyed the process of doing so.
It offers interviews with tech giants such as Sean Parker, one of the founders of Facebook. With these interviews, the film reveals the intricacies of the strategies that companies use to keep us wanting more. With each ping of a cellphone and notification, we have been set up for immediate gratification that drives us back into the abyss of information. In doing so, companies knowingly create a reliance upon the endless pool of content, messages and communication that develops our fear of missing even the simplest of emails. The film does not condemn the apps themselves. But it does call out the content creators for their deliberate attempts to hook the world on what they offer.
Of course, one of the most terrifying aspect of Screened Out stems from its open conversation about our own digital practices and how it’s affecting the next generation. It points the finger at parents for a lack of restraint regarding their children’s cellphone usage. Thus, the film recognizes that the patterns of behaviour in the next generation are established by the parents themselves and their own use of screen time. (After all, what parent hasn’t sat at the dinner table with phone in hand?)
In addition, conversations surrounding the relationship between online interconnectedness and the rise of depression and anxiety among teenagers highlights the dangers inherent to lack of discipline in using technology. By delving into digital networking, Screened Out highlights the fact that today’s youth have found themselves in a never-ending pool of interaction and social rankings that continues to weigh on them. (Information regarding China’s use of online interactions to reinforce social classes is particularly shocking.)
Challenging and grounded, Screened Out is an eye-opening look at the importance that we have handed over to our cell phones. These phones continue to adapt to our modern-day relationships with one another. Willing to put his own practices on trial, director Hyatt recognizes that there is only so much blame that can be placed on others. He challenges us all to take responsibility for our own relationships as well.