Sandra Bullock’s 1995 film The Net and her current post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box represent a nice cinematic progression of the following question:
Why should I go outside my home when I can find experiences that are better, cheaper, and safer by using technology?
In The Net, this state of isolation occurs through Bullock’s character Angela Bennett who seemingly has the ideal life as a computer expert working from home. Angela’s isolation from society becomes her downfall as she gets into trouble with some dangerous people after discovering their cyber-terrorist scheme. Angela is forced to fight for her very existence as law enforcement cannot help her since her neighbors or anyone else cannot vouch for her identity as the cyberterrorists slowly siphon away her online existence.
Today, people actively enveloped in technology don’t see technology as something that cuts them off from society…technology has become the preferred alternative. Why talk to this person when I can spend more time engaging with other seemingly more interesting people through my cell phone? Why go out to rent a video when I can watch one at home through the affordable streaming subscription I already paid for? Why risk encountering crime when I can interact with the world on a laptop from the safety of my own home?
This isolation hits a new level of engagement with the engaging movie Bird Box where Bullock portrays a character named Malorie, an intelligent artist who deals with considerable stakes where she must stay voluntarily blindfolded to avoid supernatural entities which cause tragic horror…all while caring for two kids. Now, the state of isolation occurs through the movie’s technology platform, Netflix, making people think twice about grabbing their coat and going out to a movie theater.
Bird Box has not only become Netflix’s first giant blockbuster alternative; it has inspired people to mimic this movie and engage in and spoof various day-to-day activities wearing blindfolds. These “Bird Box” challenges include everything from video game players broadcasting their game sessions on Twitch while blindfolded to video posts and subsequent social media shares of stressed out Moms covering their eyes and finding the ice cream and wine to cope with a houseful of rowdy kids.
Netflix also has a Black Mirror “interactive” movie experience where viewers can make choices that lead to multiple endings. These appealing offerings may seem groundbreaking, but they’re just remediations of past media experiences like the thrills of seeing Jaws in a packed theater and choose-your-own-adventure books.
Technology offers several experiences where people have experiences that they do not question and can fully escape in. Escapism can provide a nice break in life, but when a restaurant full of people are sitting among each other, but only conversing with technology then that might be a sign that technology has taken over the life intended to be lived.
Isolation through technology basically comes down to choice. Avoid in-person interactions with others or use technology to enhance communication (e.g. an online check-up with a health professional, video sessions with your family, etc.)?