Whenever you want to reconnect to the rest of the world, you log into Facebook and see how your friends are getting on. Rather irritatingly, they are doing really well. Too well. Unrealistically well. Everyone is getting married, cute pictures of featureless babies appear all over your news feed and that girl from secondary school who you know had her boyfriend cheat on her just completed a race for life. Good for her, you don’t think to yourself.
Shaun Higton’s latest short film ‘What’s on your mind’ encompasses all of this and our obsession with ego on Facebook. His message? If you ever want to feel good about yourself, don’t log in. It is the ugly truth.
We see our protagonist, Scott Thomson, a twenty something man updating his status to please the faceless masses of Facebook. When he gets fired, he sells it as ‘getting out of that dead job’, when his girlfriend sleeps with another man he updates with ‘finally single.’ He drives up to top of a hill to take a photo of himself, claiming to have just run there. Gosh, this is getting painfully realistic now.
It’s all about how you tell it, the truth is a secondary thought. Higson’s short is a realistic outlook on modern social media, not to get swept up in the competitive ramblings of people you haven’t seen in ten years. But that is much easier said than done. And isn’t it obvious anyway? When you log on, how many people believe what they read? And yet Facebook has hooked us all in as we refresh our browsers, looking at the sepia selfies of girls we were once so close with. Higton captures the perfect amount of embellishment people use on themselves. When really, most of time people aren’t feeling too great and isn’t that a more endearing topic opener anyway?
His work can be summarised by the notion that if it isn’t posted on Facebook, it didn’t happen. Social media was at first supposed to do what it said on the tin, be social with other people. Reconnect. And to some extent it does, but there is a much more cynical side that people are apprehensive about documenting. The obsession with the self. Taking photos of your meal, checking yourself in to every place you step foot, telling the world that you are in a relationship. It’s all to give people a sense of being. I am alive. Here, I have the proof. And just to reaffirm it, your eight hundred friends who you have never met will like your pictures and leave heartwarming comments like ‘Oh my god girl, I love your hair!’ Yes this is the modern culture that we only have ourselves to blame.
Shaun Higson’s two and half minute short without any words speaks volumes. It is a subtle nag at a generation of people with their heads at a constant right angle, staring down at their smart phones. They may have had fifty likes for their last update, but they are sitting by themselves at a crowded party, clicking on that big white ‘F’ on a blue background waiting for more approval.