Social Animals (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Social Animals (2018) is a documentary by Jonathan Ignatius that focuses on three teenagers who have found some level of success on Instagram as well as varying levels of devastation. While it focuses on three individuals, it features some conversations with a diverse group of other teenagers and their takes on the popular social media platform. It’s a deep look at the impact social media is having on our youth without seeming to pass a specific judgment on it choosing to leave it up to the audience to make the final decision.

Social Animals is an in-depth look at three successful Instagrammers and the impact the platform has had on their lives

The most challenging of the three stories and the one that seems to speak the most against the app is with Emma Crockett’s story. Without going into spoilers, Emma definitely had the worst experiences as a result of posting images and direct messaging on Instagram.  Her story is definitely of a kind that’s been heard before but is never any easier to hear about. Kaylyn Slevin, on the other hand, is almost completely positive and reminiscent of the Kardashians. She’ll be famous basically because she’s pretty and rich using Instagram to launch her stardom. She seems almost completely oblivious to the kind of negativity that Emma experiences via the platform and doesn’t even seemed phased when she received stalker-esque death threats. Kaylyn being positive but oblivious to the real world that most of us live seems to speak against the platform in some ways but in a more petty tone.

The most interesting story of the film has to belong to Humza Deas. Unlike the other two who were using Instagram to focus on their lives in a structured storytelling sort of way, Humza is a photographer. While he definitely uses his personality to express himself on the app, his photography is center and why he gains so much attention. Of course, he puts himself at risk to capture most of his amazing images, but the fame he gains seems more earned as he is creating art rather than being the subject of it. He also gets the biggest backlash from other daredevil photographers for actions he takes or because of the fame he finds himself in as a result of those other things. However, there is a level of humbleness about him that also made him likable in the film.

Final thoughts…

Overall, this documentary doesn’t make any real conclusions about the social media but does examine the impact it has on teenagers lives. Out of the very mouths of the subjects with little insight from adults other than the parents of the kids it focuses on. There is a cool opening montage that shows the ridiculous amounts of similar photos that show up on Instagram. Social Animals earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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