'Connected' Sheds Light on Our Addiction to Social Technology

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Tiffany Shlain's feature-length documentary Connected is an intensely personal exploration of what human connection means in our modern, technology-obsessed world. In anticipation of the film's release in New York next week, she shares an excerpt that looks at how our brain chemistry compels us to reach for our gadgets 24-7.

When I asked her what gadget she absolutely couldn't live without she didn't hesitate, "Where do I begin? My iPhone. It’s my mind extension. And heart extension. Every thought I have I get to activate and every person I think about I get to call or email.”

Shlain worked on the film over the course of four years; what began as a documentary with a global scope suddenly became very personal when her father was diagnosed with cancer. She felt compelled to explore the emotional side of connection and began to interweave the narrative of her own life, including old home movies from her childhood.

Her signature documentary style consists almost entirely of archival and found footage paired with narration. The montage look developed when she studied film theory at Berkeley, which didn't offer actual film production classes. She began recutting old archival prints to make her own films; now her job is much easier, she says, because "on the internet, you can find anything."

The film is loosely thematic, riffing off her father's books about the evolution of the mind and a right vs. left brain approach to life. It's light on the science, however, and focuses on delving into Shlain's personal journey of losing her father, while building a family of her own. Those looking for an in-depth discussion of cognition or social networking might be disappointed, but many viewers gravitate to Shlain's story -- "At screenings, I get a lot of hugs," she says. 

Now, she and her family take one day a week away from technology to unplug completely. 

For more information about Connected, visit the Facebook page

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/connected-sheds-light-on-our-addiction-to-social-technology/246287/