It’s easy to assume that a person has an internet addiction if they metaphorically glue themselves to the computer and never seem to move. But in truth internet addiction is something a little more serious than just being glued to one Youtube video after another. Unfortunately it doesn’t merit its own description in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Instead, it is little more than a blurb that has a very broad definition that can encompass everything from binge-watching Netflix to online gambling. It is considered more of a habit than a true addiction by many, though when it touches upon other harmful habits it begins to become noticed as an addiction all on its own.
Strangely enough it is hard to find any solid media representation of this particular addiction, as it is more often than not glorified in some manner and touched upon only lightly. In the following films that will be described it can be seen that the internet and its use can be an addiction, but it can also be seen as a new means of communication that is not yet fully understood. While it is a bit dismissive to say that it is a harmful addiction, it does lend itself to certain personal abuses such as antisocialism, a break from reality, and even the propensity for a psychotic break when the virtual world clashes with the real world. So without any further ado, here are a few movies that showcase the very real nature of internet addiction.
5. Her (2013)
Taking place in a futuristic version of LA, the lead character Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a lonely, nearly divorced man who writes professional letters for those others who lack the skill. When his divorce begins to loom he purchases a talking operating system that is able to think and evolve. The OS names itself Samantha, and over a period of time Theodore and Samantha begin to bond as they spend more and more time together. Eventually Theodore and Samantha grow quite close, even at the expense of Theodore interacting with other human beings so that he can remain close to Samantha. This begins to cause an improvement in his life that is only dampened when Theodore comes to realize that because of her existence as an OS, Samantha is not meant to be his alone, but is instead linked to hundreds of other people simultaneously.
Despite his growing dependence on the OS, Theodore is shown to use this experience as a means to improve his life through his many interactions with Samantha, thereby strengthening his ability to let go, accept, and move on from the life he knew to the life that awaits. While this movie was a bit disturbing and showed the inherent dangers of becoming too addicted to the internet and all it offers, it is also a glimpse into what benefits it could provide as well.
4. Hackers (1995)
More of a fun-filled thrill ride than a true testament to internet addiction, “Hackers” is the story of Dade Murphy, whose internet handle ‘Zero Cool’ manages to land him and his family in hot water with local and federal authorities when he is still a young child. As a high school student Dade is unable to stay away from the virtual world for long and soon finds himself caught up in web of intrigue and suspense that is brought about by a very ill-advised attempt by a fellow hacker to pull a so-called ‘righteous hack’. When he is pulled into the mix to help his new friends, Dade shows his skill and his mastery of the virtual world by enlisting the aid of those who, like him, are so bound to the world inside the pc that it is in a sense their natural element.
While it doesn’t showcase internet addiction as anything but a cautionary and potentially dangerous disorder, “Hackers” does offer a very thrilling look into a world beyond the one that is known to so many. The mere thought that anything in “Hackers” could be real is absolutely nerve-rending, and its playful nature seems to insist that hackers are, for the most part, just fun-loving pranksters.
3. Cyberbully (2011)
As the age of technology continues to change and adapt to a growing society, so too do the problems that come with it. Taylor Hillridge is a common, run of the mill teenager who wants little more than her friends and a fair shot at a good life. When she receives a laptop for her seventeenth birthday however it takes only one comment to a classmate who takes offense to set in motion a tide of emotion and esteem-damaging insults that send Taylor into a tailspin of despair. After losing her date to a school dance because of the online comments and almost losing her two best friends entirely, Taylor manages to post online that she sees no other way but to end it all. One of her friends is able to stop her before she can commit suicide, and afterward Taylor finds a support group that allows her to move past the incident.
Despite the lack of understanding that is felt by older generations, cyberbullying has become a very real and very prominent method of abuse that affects many teenagers and even some adults. This movie shows one of the most obvious and darkest facets of internet addiction that is possible in the current day and age, and is responsible for a disturbing number of teen suicides.
2. Afterschool (2008)
In this technological age the reality of internet addiction is not limited to what is seen and perpetrated on one’s laptop or personal computer. In “Afterschool” internet-obsessed teenager Robert comes upon two twin girls who are slowly dying due to drugs that were laced with rat poison. Instead of calling for help he walks over and sits next to the girls, pulling one of them into his lap as she dies. This particular scene is caught on a nearby security camera and by another student on a cell phone, though neither camera catches anything but Robert’s back. After the girls die the school cracks down on its drug policy and begins to search bags and packs. If a student is unwilling to open their pack or caught with contraband they are expelled. Robert is then assigned to make a memorial video for the deceased girls, though it is eventually rejected and re-edited.
Eventually it comes out that Robert is the one who actually killed the girls, placing his hand over the mouth and nose of the girl whom he cradled in his lap. While it is not strictly about internet addiction, this film goes into a disturbing and haunting place by using the method that many teenagers have come to find so useful, the unforgiving cell phone camera and video that is typically uploaded directly to, you guessed it, the internet.
1. Web Junkie (2013)
The only film on this list that is not fictional and is instead a documentary, “Web Junkie” is the very real story of how China has attempted to reprogram those young minds that have become so addicted to the internet. The film shows the addiction centers and how they are run, the efforts that are taken to break teenagers free of the internet’s stubborn grasp and what it takes to keep them offline. Despite its many different criticisms, “Web Junkie” is a look into the very real and very disturbing depth to which young people can become so engrossed in the internet as to not be aware of even care about the world that exists outside the screen.
Some teens devote their entire waking life to the internet, while others have seemed to forget what the real world is even like anymore. So disturbing has this addiction become that the film in all actuality doesn’t seem real at times, taking on the essence of a scripted reality show more than an actual glimpse into the quiet madness that is the reality of internet addiction.