Social Media Is Having Its Moment On Film & It's Pretty Grim

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Why is it that every time social media is depicted on screen, it's the harbinger of great evil? And if not supernatural evil, then it's stalking, or bullying, or some other grave danger? For the most part, film has portrayed social media as an obstacle to living, not a tool we use in our daily lives.
Still, even though many of us use social media on a daily basis, it's hard to shake the feeling that so much can go wrong. Movies are capitalizing on that tremor of unease. Take the horror movie Friend Request, out September 22, that uses the politics of Facebook interactions to unleash great evil into the world. After Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) accepts the friend request of a strange loner in her psych class, her world begins to fall apart in gruesome ways.
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Social media invites strangers, and thus the unknown, into our lives. Here's how different movies have handled the lure, and potential danger, that lurks in our online presences. Unlike vampires and monsters, social media is one relatable monster.
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Hard Candy (2005)

The Gist: After spending a while talking online, 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) and 32-year-old Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) meet in a bar. You think you know where this is going, but you don't. Right after swigging back a cocktail, Jeff wakes up bound to a chair, with Hayley standing in front of him. Hayley, the most hardcore vigilante since Arya Stark, knows Patrick is a rapist and murderer responsible for disseminating the photos of a young girl's death — and is going to punish him.

Why Social Media's Evil: Hard Candy exposes the deep underbelly of the internet, and drills in the fact that even viewers are complicit in the crimes that they're viewing online. Hayley and Jeff are outsized monsters in their own way – but the internet can potentially make monsters of us all.
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Trust (2010)

The Gist: Back in the days when anonymous chatrooms were all the rage, 14-year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberto) meets a man online. After two months of chatroom flirting, she meets "Charlie" at a motel, where he proceeds to rape her and film the assault. Annie's father (Clive Owen) becomes determined to find the assaulter, who masks his identity with terrifying acumen. Annie, on the other hand, refuses to believe that Charlie isn't who he says he is.

Why Social Media's Evil: Given that Annie is but one victim in Charlie's repertoire, Trust shows how terrifyingly easy it is to manipulate people online. The film also exposes the generational divide between how people use the internet. While loving, Annie's parents are clueless to the psychology behind the pull of an online chatroom.
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Catfish (2010)

The Gist: Due to the prevalence of the MTV spinoff, you probably know the gist of Catfish already. In the documentary, Nev Schulman sets out to investigate whether or not Megan, the woman he's been dating online, is actually who she says she is. Spoiler: she's not.

Why Social Media's Evil: Because it's just so, so easy to lie. We lie in little ways, like curating the best parts of our life to project to the outside world. But more obviously, it's possible to create entire personas that don't actually exist, and trick other people. The Internet is the real Twilight Zone!
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Noah (2013)

The Gist: Noah's about to leave for college, and he and his high school girlfriend are feeling the pressure of their impending separation. The entire short film is played out through a computer screen-capture, and shows the way our romances have become irrevocably attached to our online presences.

Why Social Media's Evil: It's not evil so much as it is inescapable. Noah and Amy's breakup is documented through what Noah does on his screen: Hack into her Facebook messages, Chatroulette with strangers in the boring haziness of a breakup, play games while pretending to pay attention on Skype. This simple film shows the drastic way the internet has changed the way we communicate.
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Uwantme2killhim? (2013)

The Gist: In 2003, the early days of the Internet, a British schoolboy named Mark (Jamie Blackley) befriends Rachel (Jaime Winstone), a woman he's never met in real life. At her urging, Mark becomes friend with Rachel's brother, John (Tony Regbo). When he learns that Rachel was killed by her boyfriend, Mark sets off to get revenge — and then gets contacted by a British M15 agent for help on a mission.

Why Social Media's Evil: The movie's far more harrowing than its silly title would suggest. It's based on an even stranger true story, that reveals the deep, dark rabbit-hole the internet can lead to, if you want to jump.
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Disconnect (2013)

The Gist: The film weaves together the disparate storylines of three separate individuals, each grappling with life in the digital age. After suffering a miscarriage, a grieving woman (Paula Patton) strikes up a relationship with a man who wants to meet her in person. A nerdy boy (Jonah Bobo) gets catfished by his classmates. A reporter (Andrea Riseborough) wants to frame predators who run webcam sites.

Why Social Media's Evil: What's so scary about Disconnect is how relatable the characters' problems are. Ultimately, everyone's going to have to negotiate the boundaries between their social media presence and their "disconnected" life.
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Unfriended (2014)

The Gist: After enduring relentless bullying, high-schooler Laura Barnes (Heather Sossaman) takes her own life. She then haunts her bullies' Skype conversation, and kills them one by one.

Why Social Media's Evil: The film's action is shown entirely through a MacBook screen, proving that there's something wicked lurking inside the machines we spend so much time on. Even if it's not a spirit of a girl, your computer's hiding things.
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Ratter (2016)

The Gist: Everywhere she goes, Emma (Ashley Benson) is being watched by an anonymous hacker who has access to the cameras on her devices. Since she's always plugged in, the hacker can track her movements through her phone and laptop use. Soon, her phone is being inundated with anonymous texts and calls. When the harassment increases, there's nowhere she can go to escape.

Why Social Media's Evil: It's one thing to willfully interact with strangers on Twitter. It's another to have one tracking your every movement, and harassing you. Emma's dependence on her devices renders her extremely vulnerable — and the scary part is, every one of us would be just as vulnerable to cyber stalking. Cover up those webcams, kids.
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Friend Request (2017)

The Gist: A super nice, super perfect college student named Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) takes pity on Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a loner in her psych class — where they’re studying internet addiction, in fact. Despite Marina’s strange Facebook presence, she accepts her friend request. Marina starts stalking her, but things only get really bad when Laura unfriends Marina. First, Marina takes her own life, and releases the video on Laura’s Facebook. Then, she starts brutally going after all of Laura’s friend group.

Why Social Media’s Evil: Every moment of Laura’s perfect life is memorialized on her Facebook newsfeed. Marina, extremely lonely, thinks that she’ll be able to be a part of Laura’s life merely by being her Facebook friend. In the film's plot, Facebook becomes a conduit for dark magic. In our lives, Facebook isn't the home for dark magic, so much as regular, everyday angst.
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Ingrid Goes West (2017)

The Gist: Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) makes the fatal error of believing Instagram friends are real friends, and makes a habit of stalking them. So, when her mother dies and leaves her an inheritance, Ingrid moves to L.A. with the goal of befriending influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). With some elaborate measures, Ingrid successful ingratiates herself into Taylor's life — but in Taylor's superficial world, no relationship is as deep as the one Ingrid craves.

Why Social Media's Evil: The lives we spend our days scrolling through on Instagram are not real life — but it's easy to think they are. Ingrid Goes West unveils the hypocrisy of the influencer economy, and also shows its potentially detrimental repercussions on our mental health. After seeing so many perfect pictures of sunsets and avocado toast, a person wonders: Where's my sunset and avocado toast?
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The Circle (2017)

The Gist: After languishing in post-grad boredom, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) gets her dream job: A spot at the the Circle, a fictional tech company mash-up of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. While initially began as a lowly customer support agent, Sam becomes instantly famous when she volunteers to live-stream her daily life in the name of transparency, the Circle's ultimate goal. Mae doesn't realize just how sinister the Circle's idea of transparency really can be.

Why Social Media's Evil: The company The Circle unveils their prize technology: Ubiquitous drones capable of watching everyone in the world. In the movie, tech companies are cast as the ultimate Big Brother, spying on masses of the population, and using the information gathered to manipulate.
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