Why Do We Stay Unconnected?

Mon, 21 Oct 2013

Novia Shih-Shan Chen
PhD Candidate, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, Simon Fraser University
Assistant Festival Director, SFU Public Square Alone Together Film Festival

The times when families sat down together to watch a tv show, or the moment when a friend recognized your handwriting on a letter received in the mail seem forever gone. What has replaced these ways of being together or knowing each other is a faster but not necessarily better way of communication - online networking.

I am stunned by the fact that rather than interacting with the people around us, we are trying to connect with people who are miles away. It does not move me any more when I see friends “like” someone’s Facebook status while they are literally sitting right next to each other.

Technology makes communication faster and easier, but yet we seem more disconnected. Why did we begin to feel more comfortable replying in texts, emails, or Facebook messages than chatting face-to-face? When did speed and efficiency become the best excuse for disconnection? While social media and online networking seem to be able to connect you to friends from your previous job and your childhood, these tools appear to be driving us apart and disrupting our abilities to interact with people from our neighborhood, our community and the towns we live in. 

Film-goers have also been affected by the online networks of YouTube, Netflix, and iTunes that are encouraging social fragmentation and taking away from the pleasure we used to have in watching films in a dark room with a bunch of people we’ve never met. We begin to wait for DVD releases to rent from the video store and watch alone at home on a weekend night. Yes, I will admit it, this is how I now behave. Thus, for me, helping to produce the Alone Together Film Festival has become an exciting task; offering me the chance to challenge my own, isolated ways of living, and to get myself out from behind my computer.

Filmmakers are important commentators on culture because their work reflects the values of the contemporary age. For the Alone Together Film Festival, we are not only seeking films and videos that relate to our theme of urban isolation and disconnection, but are looking to support and highlight media artists who share via their work, an ambition to break through this modern sense of disconnectedness. While we may not be able to provide all the answers, we hope to closely examine the issue from a variety of perspectives such as race, class, age, culture and geography; and to create space for dialogue that will support and encourage change.

Novia Shih-Shan Chen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University, and the Assistant Festival Director for the SFU Public Square Alone Together Film Festival, taking place September 21 - 23 at the Westminster Savings Credit Union Theatre at SFU Surrey. Find out more about the film festival here and on Facebook.

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