Imagine a world without the Internet, and without cellular networks. Communication would be crippled. Keeping in touch would become dramatically more difficult. We wouldn’t know exactly when our Tweet-happy friend went to the store and bought oranges. Seems unimaginable now, but that’s essentially the world we lived in just twenty years ago, when cell phones were a bulky luxury and the Internet was in its infancy. It’s staggering how reliant not just the individual, but our civilization as a whole has become on communications technology since then. For many, unplugging, even if it was found to be desirable, is out of the question. Livelihoods depend on it. Relationships depend on it. Sometimes, life and death depend on it.
These realities form the backdrop of Connected, a Sundance film that is part documentary, part animation, part memoir, and all about human relationships with technology and with each other. The director, Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain, intimates a story about how, during a meeting with an old friend, she faked a trip to the restroom to check her email. To hear her describe the situation brings to mind the struggles of an addict, but her story is strikingly relatable. She claims she can’t be the only one faking restroom trips – I don’t think anyone is going to argue with her there.
In 2011, we’re almost never separated from technology. If nothing else, almost all of us have our cell phones or smartphones with us at almost all times. We are always connected to the world – to unplug is to go to sleep, and not many other moments of the day qualify. But, Shlain asks, when we are compulsively checking our email, our texts, always browsing the Internet, what are we becoming? And, will the nearly infinite amount of information available to us eventually be too much to bear?
This isn’t a movie content to rag on technology, though. It’s about getting us to think about how we can use the awe-inspiring communicative power of the Internet to create unbreakable bonds with each other. Shlain is calling for a Declaration if Interdependence – that in this day and age, no woman, no man, and no nation can afford to go it alone. The globalization that has taken place in the Internet age has made countries reliant on each other in myriad ways – Shlain wants people to start embracing that to the fullest.
So, if you ever have been guilty of one of those fake bathroom runs, or if you are still awestruck when you think about how far we have come in a mere twenty years, do yourself a favor and check out Connected when it comes to a city near you. It will begin playing in NYC on October 14th, and will roll out nationwide during this fall. You can check out the trailer here.