“Screened Out”



I had to put down my iPhone so I could start writing this review. I’ll admit it. I’m obsessed with my phone. Chances are, you are too.

The documentary “Screened Out” explores how technology consumes many of our lives, taking an in-depth look at the life-changing effects of screen addiction. It’s one of those films that will make you want to put down that phone, go outside, and have a face-to-face conversation with a live human being.

Filmmaker Jon Hyatt interviews a series of experts (including Silicon Valley insiders, advocacy groups, parents, behavioral scientists, child psychologists) to offer a broad picture of how screen time overuse can have damaging consequences. From cyber bulling and lowered work productivity to ruined relationships and child neglect, this talking heads doc covers nearly every aspect of its subject matter. It’s not a strict condemnation of having the world in your front pocket, but eye-opening statistics are thrown out that’ll make you gasp. Like how 70% of adults spend 3-4 hours online per day, or that on average, seven years of a person’s life is spent using a smartphone.

The film makes its point repeatedly, and becomes very repetitive about halfway through. It picks up towards the end when it delves into the most compelling material about how tech companies purposely craft their products to keep us hooked. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are apps designed to be easy to use, dishing out positive reinforcement for posting content which in turn triggers our desire for validation and rewards in the form of “likes.” Here it’s compared to gambling, where the most powerful human motivator is the anticipation of a reward. Brain scans show internet addiction affects the brain in a similar fashion as a drug high. Fascinating stuff, with the science to back it up.

Hyatt compares Facebook to the tobacco industry in terms of its addictive nature, but the film is not a total condemnation of the tech industry. Social media keeps us connected, and having so much information at the tips of our fingers can be useful. The global dependence on technology is one we can’t escape, but we can strive to minimize its negative effects on our lives.

Now put down that phone and go outside to get some fresh air.


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