How The Modern Day Documentary ‘Catfish’ Shines A New Light On Social Media Identity Theft

If I’ve learned anything from the documentary Catfish, it’s that you never really know who you’re talking to online. As scary as it sounds, it’s actually relevant in modern day life especially with the recent boom of social media that seems to foster identity theft and deceit. Do you really know if the person in the profile photo is who they say they are? This film explores that realm and discovers that the answer is no.

Websites like Facebook and Myspace are praised for bringing people together and allowing communication even though the other person is miles away. What we seem to lose sight of very quickly is that we’re sitting in front of a screen with absolutely no idea who is on the other side of the conversation. Yaniv “Nev” Schulman is a 24-year-old photographer who, after having one of his photos published in a magazine, receives a painting in the mail by an 8-year-old girl in Michigan named Abby. Retreating to his online domain (Facebook), Nev connects with Abby and soon enough develops a close relationship with not only the 8-year-old girl, but also her mother Angela and older sister Megan. As Nev’s relationship with the family begins to grow, his filmmaking brother Ariel and their friend Henry, decide to begin documenting this journey to see where it ultimately leads.

What Ariel and Henry originally intended to document was Abby’s artistic ability and every day inspiration but by the end of the film you realize it has become the perfect analysis of the modern day social networking age. At some point along the way the story shifts from Nev and Abby to Nev and Megan who begin an impersonal love affair that is a superficial common place in today’s society. They communicate via text message, online chat and phone calls, yet all Nev knows about Megan is what he’s gathered from her Facebook profile page. It seems as though he is in love with an online profile, not an actual person.

The underlying theme doesn’t evolve until later on in the film but the influence, and seemingly strong foothold of the Internet, is apparent throughout. This film is about more than an online bond, it’s about society’s shift away from human interaction into an age of artificial and hollow relationships based on unstable foundations and naivety. Essentially the vast portion of this film has us looking over Nev’s shoulders as he sends online chat messages, posts comments on Megan’s wall, and uses Google street view to discuss locations or travel destinations.

Aside from its extremely creative and unique depiction, many critics are left wondering if the film’s ending was fact or fiction. So far reviews are mixed from the general public who argue that the handheld camera style is nauseating and that the movie has no right to consider itself a “thriller”. Either way, Catfish is sure to make an impression and change the way you think next time you find yourself chatting with a stranger online.

The Social Network On The Big Screen

The much anticipated movie, The Social Network, hits theatres today across the country and while many are skeptical or simply not interested, at Blab we are extremely excited to see social media in the spotlight for once. When I was younger I used to joke about the fact that directors were running out of ideas for original films so they started using books and true stories and anything pre-established that they could get their hands on. Now with the age of social media upon us, Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have taken advantage of the hype surrounding Facebook and have placed Mark Zuckerberg’s life on the big screen.

The movie is based on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 non-fiction novel The Accidental Billionaires yet none of the Facebook staff or employees, including the founder Mark Zuckerberg, were involved with the project. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have much to say about the movie but he did comment state “I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive.” He has also stated to Oprah Winfrey that the film is mostly fiction and that he was more hard working than his on-screen portrayal.

Filming began October 2009 in Cambridge, Massachusetts where two prep school campuses and Wheelock College were set up to look like Harvard. Ever since the filming of Love Story in 1970 that caused significant campus damage, Harvard has turned down most requests for on-location filming. According to the director, the first scene of the movie where Mark is with his girlfriend took an astonishing 99 takes to finish!

The movie begins in 2003 and follows Harvard sophomore and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg as he begins toying with the idea for a university version of Hot or Not. Inspired by his idea, Harvard classmates the Winklevoss twins begin helping Mark create “Harvard Connection”, an online community for Harvard students. Once established, Mark decides to perfect this idea and use it to create “The Facebook” which immediately becomes a campus success. Betrayed and enraged, his classmates bring him to Federal court on charges of intellectual property theft. The movie follows Mark in his journey to create the most popular website on the Internet while he burns bridges along the way.

The movie has received universal acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes, a popular online movie review website, reports that 97% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 54 reviews, with an average score of 9.5/10. What do the critics have to say? “Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest.”

At Blab, we are really excited to see The Social Network on the big screen, especially the story of how Facebook came to be. While older generations are likely to ignore the movie, it should be a huge hit with teenagers and middle –aged adults who engage with the website daily. From the trailer, it looks to be a very well directed film with an excellent cast (Jesse Eisenberg, and Justin Timberlake to name a few).

Watch the trailer, go see the movie and let us know what you think!