How great was it when Facebook allowed us to find friends long lost and reconnect with a click. But the same can’t be said as we’ve all alienated each other over issues that probably wouldn’t even cause a ripple in normal discourse. “This medium is supposed to bring us together, and it ends up tearing us apart,” says Javier Espinoza, whose new film takes on a subject that sadly leaves few people out.
“At the core, Distortion is about the way social media impacts are lives,” says the film’s website. “We wanted to show the different ways young people use social media, and how it can change their lives forever.
Espinoza got his backstory firsthand as a former high school film production teacher. “I saw the way they communicated with each other over social media in every part of their life. I was fascinated by it, and how the interactions affected them. So I decided to write something about it. That turned into a serious preproduction and now a film.”
With 12 major characters, the film follows a girl who has body image issues because she wants to be an Instagram model, a boy addicted to video games and another who has an online relationship because interacting in real life is too difficult. “I based it on an amalgamation of real experiences that my kids would tell me about,” says the LA filmmaker.
Of course, bullying is also covered. In Distortion, an ex-boyfriend is posting pictures and videos of his former girlfriend to humiliate her.
On the same front, Espinoza drew from websites where people can post and pose questions anonymously. “Chrystal is seeking approval from her peers,” he says, and taking part left her open to incredibly hurtful and vicious responses that these site allow for.
Less invasively, parents will certainly be familiar with the depiction of kids who literally wear their phones on their sleeves. “They’re all in the same room together, but their phone completely takes them out of it,” he says.
So once again Espinoza sees that social networks aren’t really social. “They put us in a virtual space, and it hurts our relationships,” says Espinoza.
Looking forward, he sees the rabbit hole going deeper. “I can see our society getting even more caught up in social media,” he says. “Look at the augmented reality of Pokemon Go - it’s fascinating how we latch onto things that are so immersive.”
As such the cautionary tales are a plenty. “The characters really see how their actions have consequences,” says Espinoza.
This actually put him in the position of getting his young actors on the same page as his intent. “They were very suspicious of what my message was,” he says. “They thought it was going to be a film that would be anti-social media.”
On the contrary, his hope is that young people recapture the intent of the innovators who have brought our virtual interconnectedness. “Social media is this amazing tool that we’ve only begun to discover it’s true potential, but we’re using it in these toxic ways. The film is a challenge to young people to do something positive with it and change the world,” he concludes.
Distortion can be found on Amazon through the website.