If you have any concerns, complaints, or criticisms of the way technology shapes our lives these days, I have some exciting news for you. There is almost certainly a viral video articulating whatever it is you’re appalled by.
Possibly that sounds paradoxical. Why would somebody launch a take-down of digital living in a medium that basically depends on being shared through social media, consumed on mobile devices, and generally drawing any viewer away from the physical world long enough to be convinced that we need to spend more time engaged in the physical world?
Well, that’s exactly what makes this previously unrecognized genre so compelling! When it comes to figuring out an effective way to skewer the 21st Century human-tech relationship, a highly shareable video is evidently a solid tactic.
Thus each of these damning critiques of spending too much time in the online world have been extremely popular — online.
1. A recent example is “What’s On Your Mind?” It’s a bleakly funny juxtaposition of some guy’s disintegrating life and his dishonestly upbeat Facebook status updates — evidently inspired by how great everyone else’s life looks on Facebook. (The clip’s impressively cynical payoff comes at the end, when he decides to be honest.)
This stark condemnation of the vacuous digital-era life has racked up well over a million views in the few weeks it’s been around.
2. Still, that viral success is paltry compared to one contender for grand champion of this genre: “I Forgot My Phone.”
This stylishly shot little film tracks a woman as she is completely ignored by friends and loved ones and strangers, universally hunched over their devices. Moments of love, triumph, and wonder are seen through a screen — or, just as often, completely missed.
It’s completely devastating. And it’s been viewed more than 43 million times.
3. “Look Up” is similarly harsh. It’s a more direct condemnation of tech-mediated living, with a didactic (albeit rhyming) narration. (Sample: “We edit and exaggerate, we crave adulation / We pretend not to notice the social isolation.”) We no longer speak to, or even look at, each other, and basically we’re all wasting our lives by staring into screens, the clip argues. And so: “Step away from the phone.”
This Seussian jeremiad ends with this advice: “Stop watching this video, live life the real way.” Nevertheless, it has more than 43 million YouTube views.
4. Maybe you’re down on some more specific manifestation of the way we live digitally now? Haters of social media in general, and Facebook most of all, have many options. Below is the oldest video in this genre I can think of: “Facebook In Real Life” dates back to 2008, and is evidently extracted from a British television show.
It gets bonus points for the nostalgia of jokes about “poking,” and holds up pretty well as a comedic illustration of the disconnect between Facebook and reality. The 800,000 views noted on YouTube strike me as surprisingly low, as I remember this making the rounds years ago — maybe more than one iteration of this video has been posted?
5. Another obvious target: Google. Has it made us search-dependent morons, or does it merely reveal what a bunch of morons we’ve always been? Both interpretations are possible in “If Google Was A Guy,” which has upwards of 10 million views.
6. Or maybe it’s Instagram that bugs you? The hilarious College Humor video “Look at this Instagram” (which doubles as a parody of a Nickelback song) should be satisfying. It has more than 6 million views on YouTube.
7. If you’re looking for a more society-and-economics context for your anti-tech online-video watching, there’s “The Story of Electronics.”
While not nearly as popular as the related viral anti-consumption hit “The Story of Stuff,” this animated exploration of “the high tech revolution’s collateral damage,” from the sweatshop to the landfill, has nearly a million views. And it’s definitely a bummer.
8. Possibly you’d prefer more of a meta-critique. Luckily another recent tech-questioning video is trending now, and it’s super meta: I Dare You To Watch This Entire Video is a three-minute clip, consisting of a static shot of a guy lecturing you about how hard it is to keep watching him lecture you, because you just can’t stand the thought that you’re “missing out” on something that’s trending on Twitter.
This brand new video is already closing in on a million views. It’s worth watching!
9. And finally, if you crave something more science-based, cutting to the very heart of what it means to be human, and how technology is screwing that up:
Enjoy “The Innovation of Loneliness,” which makes a disturbingly compelling case (partly by way of snappy animated graphics) for social media as a principle source of isolation in modern life. The video has about 2.3 million views.
Like many of these videos, this one argues in part that we use our tech tools to try to replace what’s missing in our lives: “I share, therefore I am,” the narrator says at one point.
Do you agree? Then perhaps you should tweet this video, and post it on Facebook.