InRealLife is a thought-provoking and insightful look at the internet and the way it continues to shape modern society. Using interviews with ordinary British teens, authors, professors, or those involved in the day-to-day technical operations of the internet, director Beeban Kidron presents viewers with a number of moral and ethical questions as to the cultural effects brought forth by the so-called “information superhighway”. The director chooses to delve into the negative ways in which this revolutionary technology has changed the lives and minds members of the younger generation.
The documentary begins with a couple of British teenagers discussing the various categories of pornography available to them online. The matter-of-fact way they refer to the explicit material is shocking. They act as if they might as well be reading items off a restaurant menu as opposed to talking about sex acts and images (ie. big tits, creampie, rough sex, anal etc.) When asked if he thinks he’s addicted to porn one of the boys responds that rather than an addiction, pornography has become something he relies on. Kidron goes on to explore how access to porn sites has shaped the way in which today’s teens feel about love, sex, and the exploitation of women.
InRealLife includes interviews with a number of people regarding the abusive power of the internet. Most of the people featured in the documentary warn of the dangers inherent of this technology. The founder of the Media Lab at MIT ominously states, “Trust me, the people who invented the internet did not know what they were doing. They had no idea that this would become the basis of society.” The documentary features interviews from a diverse array of people including author Nicolas Carr, internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales, academic professor Sherry Turkle, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and YouTube personality Tuboscus.
InRealLife provides viewers with information about the nuts and bolts day-to-day operation of the internet by featuring shots of wires running deep underneath London, New York City, and the Atlantic Ocean. The film also includes an assortment of facts and figures mixed-in with interviews of a number of British teens, testimony from academics and internet experts, and Kidron’s own quest for information. Several times within the course of the film the director can be heard asking about “the cloud” and “where is the cloud?”. You’d think she could’ve Googled that information.
One of the major problems with InRealLife is that it tries to cover too many subjects in too little time. Kidron uses the documentary as a platform to explore issues such as internet porn, cell phone culture, YouTube stars, the gaming industry, big business, online security and personal privacy, as well as how dating has been affected by the internet.
Like any new form of technology, the internet has its fair share of fans and detractors. Some have praised it for its ability to inform, entertain, and give us the power to communicate in a way never before possible. Others cite it for infecting the moral and social fabric of the next generation. Perhaps Beeban Kidron could’ve presented a more balanced look at the internet by reminding viewers of times in our history when other new technological advances prompted fear and condemnation. For example, there was a time when a portion of the population railed against the invention of automobiles, the advent of television, the use of personal computers, and on and on. Although InRealLife should be considered as a cautionary tale the notion that the internet has brought with it only gloom and doom is nothing short of reactionary.
InRealLife is out now on DVD.