InRealLife is bothersome with its portrayal of the Internet, those who use it, and its overall miscalculated goal.
It feels as if filmmaker Beeban Kidron is out to scare rather than to inform. Kidron even goes as far as to show the traveling of online information in the dankest of spots using creaky sound effects to get the viewer to put up their safeguard. I thought I signed up for watching a documentary about how the world wide web is affecting today’s society and upbringing. Not to walk through a haunted house.
Beeban Kidron interviews a number of online experts and has one-on-ones with teens who find themselves consumed with the Internet and social media. She is determined to find out how modern technology is forming our current generation into an entity that’s extremely dependant.
The bits with youth spilling their opinions about their online lifestyle are supposed to add elements of immature blissful personification to the doc, but these subjects have been represented in ways that feel as if they cue the movie goer to scoff at them, shake their head in disappointment and disbelief, or both.
In Kidron’s defence, sometimes her young interviewees set themselves up for their own humiliation. We watch one gamer, who has attended Oxford University, puzzle over the definition of the word “addiction” and then resort to Wikipedia to look up what it means. Other times, the results are distressing. Such as the case with one teen who objected herself to forced sexual acts to obtain her snatched up smartphone.
Mostly though, these interviews are placed at irregular times, unfairly edited, and insinuate a motive that’s somewhat exploitive. When the audience bounces back from an educated adult, these younger people that we had spent time with feel they’re only present to emphasize a shallow, burnt-out mindset.
Even the experts are not adding anything worthwhile to InRealLife. They’re pretty much there to remind the viewer that the Internet is a big and scary place where your information is always recorded and referenced.
Fleeting title cards stating astronomical figures and facts have more of an impact than any other spoken tidbits that are slung around in the movie. Also, it’s neat and intriguing to see where our information ends up. The film at least gives audiences a clear idea of how elaborate the process of collecting personal data is.
I’m still brought back to the film’s need to frighten people away from the web, however. For every one good shot of the Internet’s inner workings, there are more than a handful of attempts to show these machines as hair-raising privacy monsters.
YouTubers are not safe either. InRealLife makes sure a scene featuring a public meet-up amongst vloggers is as bizarre to watch as it is piercing to listen to. Kidron is set on making outcasts look even more needy, and it all feels a bit harsh. I mean, she has footage of the teens singing Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag and then continues by playing more of the song over users laughing and having a ball. There’s something else going on here.
I don’t think InRealLife helps anyone. The subjects who volunteered their time to give their two cents on the behemoth social media movement all come across as being too self-serious or too weird. The audience gains very minimal information from Beeban Kidron’s doc that can be put to use, and the doc itself doesn’t show any strengths from Kidron on a filmmaking standpoint.
When asked about what would happen if the Internet went away, one teen suggests that maybe he’d pick up a book. That isn’t the only case where one would wonder if reading would trump something else. You could be watching a lousy documentary, for instance.