You open Instagram. You see a bikini-clad woman on your timeline. You tap her handle to inspect her profile. You get a text. You open it but don’t reply. You return to Instagram. You get a Snap. You have a new Tinder match. Your grandma calls and you wait for it to stop ringing. You go back to Instagram. And suddenly, an hour has passed.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
This is exactly what goes down in POCKET , a 17-minute film that explores our addiction to technology through the perspective of a teenager’s iPhone. Shot vertically and made to be viewed on your smartphone, POCKET is an immersive experience that ends up being downright stressful for, well, pretty much anyone who owns a phone.
Following 15-year-old Jake Tillner (played by former Nickelodeon star Mace Coronel), the film shows his cell phone usage over the course of weeks from scrolling through Instagram, messaging in group chats and flirting with girls, to watching porn, ignoring his mom and cheating on tests. It alternates between screen recordings, and the real world around him, as seen through his phone’s camera.
As our devices have increasingly become a part of our being, this film is both a cautionary tale for older generations, especially those with young children, and also an opportunity for Gen Zers and many millennials to feel very, very seen.
When I spoke to POCKET’s directors Mishka Kornai and Zach Wechter, they said the goal was exactly that.
“Our hope for the film was just to give people an opportunity to consider their relationship to the devices that are in their pockets and in their hands all the time,” Wechter told VICE. “The digital revolution happened so fast that we didn't really have time to stop and consider how it [would] change the way we relate to each other.”
“We knew from a very early point that we wanted to tackle something about coming of age in the digital generation,” Kornai added.
When it comes to Gen Z, growing up with such advanced technology has created an isolated adolescent experience that’s vastly different from older generations, and unimaginable to a lot of us. With POCKET, you literally see Jake’s insecurities flourish from the way he only talks to his crush online and not in person, to how he turns to Google for any uncertainties about his body.
This kind of close comfort in technology is a running theme throughout the film and is a growing reality for people of all ages.
As we start to see pushback against this in real life with governments banning cell phones in schools, movements promote healthier tech use, or even simple system updates like Apple’s Screen Time, clearly the world is finally starting to notice how huge a role our phones play in our lives.
When we spoke to Coronel, the star of POCKET who is also 15 himself, he said that he strongly relates.
“I've shared the same experience that Jake has through his phone with everything, like with girls, and news, and awkward conversations, and developing relationships with friends online, and always relying back on the phone when you have nothing else,” Coronel told VICE. “We just have the world in our hands and there's so much knowledge in our phones. And I feel like it [could] be for the good and the bad.”
There’s a scene in the film where Jake misplaces his phone and from the phone’s POV (as it’s hidden under his sheets) you can see him freaking out and frantically searching for it. That moment of panic is universally relatable—and is a perfect example of why this reexamination of our relationships with our phones is well overdue.
To be honest, POCKET will probably make you hate yourself for all the time you waste on social media every day. You might try and separate yourself from your phone to prove to yourself that you’re not attached. Or, you might suddenly be very concerned for your kids. That’s all warranted, but it’s all the more reason why this film is a smart time capsule we need for the future.
“It's pretty inevitable that technology is just becoming further and further integrated in everyday life,” said Kornai. “But hopefully there will be some development that enables people to put the control back in their hands and really decide how they can use this stuff to improve their lives.”
Until then, maybe close Instagram once in a while.
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