You’ve seen these little creatures everywhere. Although they walk upright like you and me, they are usually walking aimlessly through life hunched over on their cellphones. We call these creatures “millennials.” And filmmaker Jonathan Ignatius Green has captured them in their natural environment. In his documentary Social Animals, Green follows three very different and very relatable Instagram users and these are their stories.
His first subject is Kaylyn Slevin. Kaylyn lives in Southern California and was born into a wealth. Like her father, Kaylyn is competitive in everything. She’s into fashion and her friends and wants to become Instagram-famous. She controls all of the photos she posts and is becoming a soon-to-be expert in branding.
Next is Humza. His passion is skateboarding. But during middle-school that passion changed to photography when he got his first iPhone 4. Humza learned how to shoot and compose photos by copying his friends on Instagram. When they kick him out for stealing their shots, he decided to climb bridges and tall building and shooting photos of New York from great heights. Today, Humza is known for his photography and has made it his career. His photos are gorgeous and breathtaking. Don’t believe me check out Humza’s Instagram account.
“…a balanced take on the incredible heights and pitfalls of social media.”
Finally, there’s Emma. She’s a normal, midwestern teen at a Christian high school. Like everyone her age, she talks to her friends by text and her life is an open book on Instagram. That is until one day her life falls apart through a social media misunderstanding.
What we have with Social Animals is a balanced take on the incredible heights and pitfalls of social media. Humza’s financial success on Instagram took him out of the ghetto and onto magazine covers. He travels around the world taking photos from great heights. At the same time, his fame alienated him from his friends and earned the disdain of this urban adventure-seeking peers.
Kaylyn is portrayed as the rich beauty queen, but she is driven. Like the Kardashians, she wants to develop her own brand and hit that million follower mark. At her father’s request, she teamed up with an up-and-coming stylist to help her build her look. Things were going to plan until a photo leaked with Kaylyn and her boyfriend. This unleashed the creeps and perverts lurking in the shadows indignant that their obsession belongs to someone else.
Things got worse for Emma. After the fallout with her boyfriend, the cyberbullying began. She was being attacked online (never in person). She lost all of her friends and disgraced had to leave at the end of school year. When it looked like things were settling into her new school, Emma met a boy and learned harsh truths about mental and emotional manipulation.
“…it examines this social media phenomina from the millennials’ viewpoint.”
Social Animals is not a film focused on the evils of social media. For Kaylyn and Humza, it changed their lives for the better, but it also showed the cost of that fame. Specifically the lack of privacy and the exposure to the haters and trolls. All three had to deal with it in their own way. Green wisely chose his three subjects to relate to the broadest audience.
Along with Kaylyn, Humza, and Emma’s story, director Green also interviews other teens about the role of social media in their lives. They discuss the intoxication of likes and follows. The social pressure to be online and always be connected. The experience of women online constantly being asked for booty shots and the downside of one’s life being so public attracted the worst in “perverts, haters, racists, and family members.”
I’ll just say it. As a father of a soon-to-be teen, social media scares me. Personally, I get enough hate and hassle on social media and I can barely keep my sanity. Social Animals works because it examines this social media phenomina from the millennials’ viewpoint. Why it’s important to them? Why they are attracted to it? And what are the dangers they face from their eyes and not from the eyes of their overprotective parents. This film needs to be seen in every school in America!!! Wow, I sound just like one of those parents. Ugh. Look Social Animals is a good film about an important topic. Show this to your kids.
Social Animals (2018) Directed by Jonathan Ignatius Green. Starring Kaylyn Slevin, Humza Deas, and Emma Crockett. Social Animals screened at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival.
4.5 out of 5 stars