Let’s take a moment to acknowledge something we’ve all been thinking since before we were trapped in the awful schoolyard politics of picking out our Myspace Top Eight: social media is the devil. Whether it acts as an irresistible avenue to compare your life to everyone you went to high school with (I’ll save you the trouble: they’re all doing better than you), provides you with hours of scrolling entertainment when you should be paying attention to class, or anything in between, social media has taken over a huge portion of our lives. And yeah, I’m sure a lot of good has (probably?) come from our society’s addiction to social media but what about it’s capacity for misuse and exploitation?
Take this week’s free read, #scandal by Sarah Ockler: when pictures of protagonist Lucy kissing her best friend’s boyfriend surface on Facebook and go viral, her high school experience is tossed into turmoil and by Monday morning, she’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc. In honor of #scandal—and as a balm for anyone who has gotten burned by social media—I’ve put together a list of a few movies, shows, and books that focus on the more unfavorable uses of social media. Some spoilers may be discussed, so just keep that in mind before reading on.
1) UNFRIENDED: In this 2014 found footage supernatural horror film, it’s been a few months since Laura Barns live streamed her suicide after being relentlessly bullied because of a video posted on Facebook (It’s a really messed up video). As her “friends” hash out their prom plans over a group video chat, an unexpected visitor joins them and begins to pit each character against each other as deep secrets are revealed over video chat.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Despite the kitschy set up, this is a pretty fun movie. No one likes internet bullies. The swift and brutal comeuppance dealt out to Laura’s tormentors may have a few viewers cheering. Also, the ingenious use of a first-person shooting style truly makes you feel like you’re sitting at your computer.
2) #SCANDAL: In Sarah Ockler’s YA novel #scandal, Lucy is careful to remain out of the spotlight. However, when she is a last-minute replacement prom date for her best friend’s boyfriend (and unrequited crush), she finds herself caught up in a web of drama when tons of pictures of her sharing a kiss with her friend’s boyfriend end up plastered all over Facebook. Her reputation in tatters, Lucy finds that she has no choice but to fight back.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: I wanted to plug our Free Read because it’s a fantastic book. Fast paced and full of relatable characters, it’s definitely worth checking out. And hey, if you want to snicker and call this a typical “high school” book, believe me – high school never ends.
3) CATFISH: This 2010 documentary examined the dark side of online dating and was so influential that “catfishing” became a word in common usage. Catfish details the exploits of Nev Schulman as he attempts to make contact with “Megan,” a young woman he met on Facebook and has fallen in love with. As he attempts to meet her in person, he falls down a rabbit hole of deception and half-truths, leading him to discover that “Megan” may not be all she claims to be. This premise was expanded into a television show by MTV and served to highlight the frequency which these things happen.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Meeting friends online and internet dating have shed a huge amount of the stigma they used to carry. That being said, this documentary does delve into the relative anonymity that is provided by the internet, and why people look to the internet to find friends and partners. Rather than demonize catfishers or the catfished, there is a surprising amount of nuanced conversation about why people enter into these relationships, and why pretending to be someone you’re not appeals to people.
3) LIFE UNAWARE: In Cole Gibsen’s Life Unaware, Regan Flay’s public persona is almost perfect: cheerleader, student council, Honor Society. But things all go downhill when every single lie, manipulation, or cruel text message and email she has ever written are printed out and pasted on lockers throughout the school. Now a total social pariah, Regan will be driven to extremes, even teaming up with her ex-best friends’ brother to try and document the bullying going on at the school.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: We all have secrets. Having them blasted out either in print or digitally is pretty high up on the list of things we’d never like to see happen. Mean girl Regan’s spiral serves a poignant commentary on the pressures placed on young people and the lengths to which they will go to meet expectations.
5) CRY_WOLF: In this 2005 slasher/thriller, bored rich teenagers at an exclusive boarding school decide to spice things up by playing a game where one of them is the “wolf” and the other players try to identify the “wolf” before it takes them all out of the game. For good measure, they spread a rumor to the entire student body claiming that there is a murderer on campus. But these violent delights have violent ends, as anyone playing the game becomes a target for a real life killer with the same MO as the fictional killer in their game.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: I’m not going to lie to you – this is not a good movie. That being said, it features a hilariously stiff Jon Bon Jovi as a journalism professor. If you need more convincing, this is a great watch to remember the early days of social media – communication occurs mainly over email and Instant Messenger, and there isn’t a single Tweet in sight. It was a simpler time.
What are your favorite social media nightmares? Do you have any you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out #scandal, available as a free read until 3/27!