A Youtube video by writer and director Gary Turk has gone viral thanks to high-profile retweets by celebrities like Jordin Sparks and Andy Murray. In a strange relationship between the message and its audience, the video, which so far has been viewed almost 11 million times, is actually a critique of how often we use social media as a fill-in for real life experiences.
The five-minute film is, essentially, a poem-story about a love connection which would ultimately never happen because one of the characters would, in the end, be looking at his smartphone and consequently miss the opportunity to start a connection with the woman walking by. Instead of asking for directions, he consults his phone, leading to a chain reaction where they never have a relationship or grow old together. Currently, the average American spends about 40 minutes each day using social media whether on a phone or with a computer, so the concern about over-engagement with the internet is seemingly real.
The reaction to the film has been largely positive, but there is some mixed reception, especially given how a film critiquing social media has, of course, received its largest reception from the very websites it seeks to warn users against getting too wrapped up in.
“Obviously the sole purpose of this video is to go viral and garner as much controversy and therefore Ad$ense revenue as possible in your 5 seconds of internet fame,” complains Youtube user Brenneau1023. “The hypocrisy is painful.” It’s a valid critique — Youtube isn’t the only video platform, but it is one that will pay. And at least 40% of Youtube’s traffic does, in fact, now come from mobile devices.
In a strange hypothetical twist, a person watching this video could, as a result, miss out on the same sort of events the video outlines. Turk, for his part, seems to acknowledge this strange relationship in the poem: “I’m guilty too of being part of this machine, this digital world where we are heard but not seen,” he says. Although it seems unlikely that this video will actually convince anyone to stay off the internet, it could be seen as a useful reminder about the benefits of unplugging ourselves.