The woman’s boyfriend gazes into his smartphone as they embrace in bed. A couple getting engaged on the beach pause to take a selfie in the sand. A child stops swinging in the park to peer at her phone screen. A runner blathers into his phone about some other guy dragging a box under his car.
A new short film called I Forgot My Phone paints a depressing portrait of how stupidly addicted many us have become to our electronic devices. Without any explicitly judgmental narration, actress and dancer Charlene deGuzman says plenty about how pathetically cyborgian we’ve become.
deGuzman, who made and stars in the video, doesn’t get to distract herself with a smartphone in the clips, presumably having forgotten hers somewhere off-screen. The result is fairly alienating: As she ferries a birthday cake to a friend, everyone records the proceedings, including the birthday boy who views the gesture through his smartphone lens. But she also appears to be having more fun than her screen-absorbed counterparts, focusing on her bowling, her swim, her cocktail and her friends – the living, breathing ones in front of her.
Reaction has been mostly laudatory, with viewers commending the short as a clever eye-roll for our modern times. “The world needs a digital detox,” writes one viewer on YouTube. “God, how sad that this is so much like my world. What has happened?” writes another. And another: “I never understood the fascination of recording so much of people's lives. There are so many videos taken that no one cares to watch it again.”
The mood was even more sombre among Gawker readers: “The really sad part about this, is that it is only going to get worse. This tech has not even been around that long and we are still figuring out the real possibilities,” writes one.
A 2012 short film titled Social Media had a similarly disheartening effect, except this protagonist is on her phone all the time. The three-minute short purports to show “a day in the world of online social interaction from the perspective of an average girl.”
Low points? The scene in which the young woman pauses to view a“viral video of a duck” in her bathrobe at 6:40 a.m.; also the moment she trolls Facebook photos of some guy named Michael at 7:05 a.m., discovers him kissing a “new girl” at 7:06 a.m. and changes her Facebook status to “single” by 7:20 a.m. Seeing it all happen over her shoulder is embarrassing.
Although lamenting our current electronic saturation never never gets old, it’s unlikely that either film has the power to abate our tech-twitchy behaviour at this stage in the game. But here’s to trying again this weekend.