Two years ago I produced a short film for a 48 Hour Film project called Missed Connections. It was a simple boy meets girl storyline. But we shot it we were trying to tell a slightly deeper story than that. We set out to make a statement about our increasingly connected lives and how that effects our social interactions with each other. In the film, our protagonist wanders through life, compulsively clicking away at his phone, ignoring much of the real world. He sends messages, posts status updates to various social networks and reads tweets from this friends. In the process of being “connected” to the world, he invariably isolates himself from the very connections he’s trying to make. He finds himself alone with only his thoughts, as he struggles to find human companionship.
It’s not really as depressing as it seems — it was actually a somewhat cute story. And I won’t ruin the ending for you in case you decide to watch it, but it turns out well for our socially challenged leading man. It might surprise you what the turning point in the story hinges on, however.
The point of the film was to highlight an issue we see happening around the world: we’ve become so connected in our digital lives that we forget what it’s like to have true human and emotional interaction. I’m just as guilty as the next person, which is why I’ve spent the good part of this past year reading and researching the subject.
I had originally focused my attention on an idea of “happiness” and how societies rate these subjective feelings and values. I’ve learned that there is a great distinction between “happiness” and “pleasure.” Happiness is a long-term feeling of contentment and satisfaction and pleasure is more short-term and immediate sensory gratification.
Our history tells us that our family and circle of friends is supposed to be the source of our eternal happiness — which is why the phrase, “money can’t buy you happiness” has stuck around for such a long time. Authentic and intimate personal acceptance by our peers is the key to our contentment and long-term happiness. When my mom had to resort to sending me a message on Facebook about Christmas dinner, I knew that I had gone too far and I knew that I was not alone. There are people far worse than I am.
I thought about all the ways I was digitally connected and how dependent I had become on these devices as my exclusive means for communication with friends and family. I don’t remember the last time I picked up a regular phone to catch up with someone. In fact, I don’t even know what a newspaper or a postage stamps costs. I figured that there must be more people like me.
The Unplugged Project
Have you ever considered what it would be like if our digital devices and tools suddenly disappeared from the earth? How you would get information, find inspiration, communicate with family and friends? How would you fill the time? Would you give up these devices on purpose?
When presented with this theoretical question, many people simply decline the challenge and admit that they would not be able to live without their connectivity. But what if there were rules attached? What if you only had to give up your devices for 48 hours? What if you could keep your phone on in case of emergencies? Check your work email? Could you do it? Would you do it?
We’re looking for people willing to unplug for 48 hours and document the results of the experiment. Are you willing to try? Send us a note and tell us a little bit about yourself. We’ll be selecting a dozen individuals across a variety of diverse backgrounds. We will provide them with simple rules, a journal and a Flip camera to record their day.
To learn more about this project and to volunteer, sign up at: