Technopanic: The Movie

Disconnect thinks it is a film about technology’s impact on our lives. But it is really just a mawkish melodrama about a random bunch of creeps, jerks, assholes, and loners. It is not a warning about our future. In the future, it will be seen as the cyber Reefer Madness: in short, a laughingstock.

Disconnect begins by throwing us every uh-oh signal it can: online porn; people listening to their headphones instead of the world around them; people paying attention to their phones (and the people on the other end) instead of the boring world in front of them; skateboards; people ruining office productivity watching silly videos; kids wearing Hooters T-shirts; sad people chatting with strangers online; people gambling online; people getting phished into bankruptcy; and worst of all, kids using Facebook. Oh, no!

A series of parallel stories unfold: the loner kid who’ll be drawn to humiliate himself and attempt suicide by asshole teens, one of them the son of a cybercop (!); the young couple — let’s kill their kid to up the sympathy — who chat with strangers and gamble with machines and find their identities thieved (where’s the product placement for Identity Guard and!); the vulture reporter who exploits — and rather hankers for the loins of (and smokes reefers with) — the teen online hustler exploited by the cyberFagin.

Along the way, the movie delivers quite retrograde messages not only about technology but also about sexuality: It’s the men who are found to be at fault for not protecting their nests. Thus: technology castrates!

I hate to deliver any spoilers but it pretty much ends with everybody fucked up and miserable because they got anywhere near the internet.

Disconnect is merely an extension of a trend (we call it a meme these days) in challenging the value of technology against those of us — and I include myself in the “us” — who try to identify the opportunities technology provides. Instead, why don’t we look for everything that could go wrong and crawl back into our caves?

  • Guest

    To me it seems obvious, Hollywood and “Old media” are doing anything in their power to slow down the growth of technology, and I think they are hoping that eventually they will get lucky, make something which toys with our emotions and actually have a significant impact,

    They are fighting a losing battle here they need to embrace change rather than fight it, they no longer have the influence they once had.

    Good piece Jeff!

  • RollyF

    With Canadians trying to understand the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, brought about because technology was used to embarrass and shame her, a comment like “let’s kill their kid to up the sympathy” is crass and tasteless. How many children across North America have killed themselves because of the amplification effects of social media?

    In the Jeff Jarvis Publicness religion there are only two positions, agree with him, or you are inciting “technopanic”. I see it was reported today that teens are actually starting to abandon social media, I’m sure in part because of the consequences they see. Our brains evolved in an ephemeral world – we need to address how living in a world where everything is documented and recorded is affecting us. Movies like this get people to consider the world they want to live in – and I think the abandonment of social media with memory has already started as a consequence.

  • To voice concern about negative influences facilitated by aspects of new technology and new media doesn’t ipso facto make someone a Luddite, just a sensitive surveyor of the current scene.

    Jeff, your enthusiasm for the positives advanced by the new is valid and infectious — I’ve cited your arguments often when dealing with media stragglers — but your boosterism is often less than welcoming to a necessary appraisal of attendant dangers.

  • Pingback: Technopanic: The Movie | Rapid Notes()

  • Dean Michael Berris

    Simple: because its easier to evoke fear than it is to evoke euphoria. The reason a dystopian view of the future is more profitable in the science fiction film is the same reason people cannot look away from car crashes. The worst thing you can do is to ignore these things though as a technologist. One you understand how people are wired, you can get better at managing the messaging to avoid these fallacies.

  • Pingback: Don’t fear innovation | Paul G. Silva()