New People of the New World: Social/Asocial

11 April 2017 Comments Off on New People of the New World: Social/Asocial


“Her,” written and directed by Spike Jonze, is a science-fiction/drama movie. It shows us scenes from the near future, shaped around a love story. Nowadays, technology has brought human beings to a point where almost everyone uses a smartphone and social media. The social media are now a way to share our lives with other people and also cause people to hear our voices through our posts and accounts. Using social media to communicate has become as normal as using a phone. Beyond this, there is also a brand-new innovation emerging that, despite being criticized, seems like it will take an important place in our lives in the near future: artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligences can talk to you, understand you and suggest something for you to do; they develop themselves further each time a human being tells them something new. Most of us have had the opportunity to use them, and they are becoming more popular.

In “Her,” the director brings us to the near future, and into the life of a lonely, solitary and depressed man named Theodore Twombly. Theodore lives in Los Angeles and works for a company where people write letters for those who cannot or do not want to do this themselves. He is currently in a critical period of his life, because he is getting divorced from his childhood love and lives alone. He has no friends with which to share his thoughts and feelings; he feels lonely, depressed, sad and miserable. His life consists of a triad: home, work and PlayStation games. He feels a strong desire to talk to someone and tell them what he is going through, what he is experiencing or feeling at the moment; he wants people to share his life.

Things begin to change when he decides to buy an operating system. This operating system can listen to people, understand them and talk to them. The OS also has the ability to develop itself as it talks to people. Each time it hears something new, it adds this to its system. It consists of an earphone and a device that the owner needs to carry around. The earphone is compact, so tiny that it does not bother the person wearing it. The OS device is like a small smartphone, and by means of the camera it has on both sides, it can see both the person and the people around him/her. With this feature, it can also interpret the world outside and the people around it.

When Theodore buys this OS, he first has to fill out a personality questionnaire and answer questions about his life. Then he has to decide on the sex of the voice that he will be talking to. He chooses a woman, who is named Samantha. Samantha and Theodore become good friends; he shares everything with her and talks to her all day long, only losing contact when he is sleeping. Soon, he bonds to her emotionally. He can talk to her about anything that comes to mind, because she can respond to him on any subject he mentions. Because this OS is so well equipped, she can search for, comment on, discuss and explore everything. The story goes on from there, but I do not want to give more spoilers for those who have not seen the movie.

The theme behind this film concerns the ongoing process of technology, the devices and the artificial intelligence it brings forth. What can we expect in the future? As the use of social media becomes more widespread around the world, it is becoming more common to meet people through social media and choose friends or even mates from among them. We are now familiar with the idea of becoming friends through social media; you have all probably heard of friendships or relationships that started on Tinder, Instagram, Facebook or the like. I am not saying that it should not be this way. We are now living in a new era, sometimes referred to as the communication era, and it is much easier than before to get access to people through the Internet and social media. It might even be easier than ever before to meet people with whom you have common interests and can get on well. So maybe this really is a better way to find people who can become your best friends, or even someone who might be your ideal mate. Social media indeed enable us to socialize more, in an easier way than before. What does not seem normal to me is behaving like a super-social person on social media while being asocial in the real world. There are lots of people who have many followers on social media and create content that is very popular. Those people seem quite positive, funny, charming and desirable. However, when you meet them in the real world, you realize that they are not that way at all; they have simply created an ideal self, using the tools of social media.

So do people use social media and technology to share and reflect their lives, or do they use it to create another self and act as if that is how they really are? We have started to see people who are social on social media, but asocial when it comes to real life. In the movie “Her,” the character gets on well with Samantha, but when it comes to real life and “real people,” he cannot communicate with them. People have started to spend more time on social media with the friends they meet there, leading them to spend less time with real friends simply experiencing real life. Will the ongoing development of technology bring us to a point where we will socialize less in the real world, choosing instead unreal or non-living beings as our friends? Will this feed our primary need to socialize and be among people?

What this movie made me think about is the question, do we use social media to show our lives as they are and reflect our real interests, or do we show ourselves as we want to be? Is it our real selves that we share on social media, or are we completely different from what we share?