While it certainly doesn’t happen very often, every now and then Hollywood gets it right in their depictions of life in the Internet Age. Most films that use it as a plot point either stumble right out of the gate or stray so far from reality as to defy credibility. For whatever reason, few attempts manage to capture the marriage between modern society and high tech in any meaningful way. The following is a list of exceptions to the rule. Here are the 10 most accurate movies about the internet:
- Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) – A fairly spot-on illustration of contemporary culture online. How we meet, who and when we meet, and our interactions in the meantime as well as afterward are all addressed smartly and creatively here.
- The Social Network (2010) – A mostly accurate portrayal of the real-life creators and creation of the social networking site Facebook. It deals with the legal wrangling’s and personal struggles of the protagonist in unblinking detail.
- Hackers (1995) – Given that the movie was released during the infancy of what we now know as the internet, this film does a decent job in depicting the world of computer hackers. The overarching plot is pretty much crap, but as far as its use of the internet itself as a device and character, the movie isn’t all that far off the mark, all things considered.
- Middle Men (2009) – From the perspective of e-commerce businessmen, this film is really not a half-bad example of behind-the-scenes revelation. The notion of creating a pay pornographic website doesn’t exactly seem over-the-top from today’s perspective, but watching the idea unfold in the ‘net’s early days along with all of the personal snares it entailed for its creators was quite an eye-opener.
- Catfish (2010) – Here we find a serviceable example of the gulf between expectations and reality in a largely anonymous medium. The fact that the movie begins at least as a documentary adds to the sense of discovery and awareness that we sense later in the film.
- Adoration (2008) – Insofar as its ability is concerned to color people’s perceptions and convey an image of authority where there may be none at all, the internet is played with disturbingly accurate aplomb in Adoration.
- We Live in Public (2009) – Josh Harris, an early pioneer and visionary of the web’s dot-com revolution, is a documentary subject spanning a 15-year period. In it, Harris lives with others under the constant eye of the web-cam, every moment being shared online. Its ultimate effect on Harris, and the potential realities it forces the viewer to see regarding our future with technology, is discomfiting to say the least.
- You’ve Got Mail (1998) – I’ll probably take some flak for this because most of my techie contemporaries take a dim view of this movie in general. However, it is not in general of which I write, but the way in which the internet is used within the plot. Given its time period and the dominance of AOL at that time, the movie is really pretty accurate. Two individuals who know each other online in one way and entirely differently in real life is not exactly a stretch of the imagination.
- The Matrix (1999) – It may not accurately portray the internet as it is today, but the allegory that the virtual reality we turn to the internet to enjoy now will become the very genuine reality in the not-so-distant future that assimilates us all isn’t so far-fetched.
- Start-up.com (2001) – A very realistic look at the roller coaster ride that was the dot.com boom and bust of the late 90′s. This insider’s view into how the meteoric rise and crashing fall of this internet phenomenon took place is right on the money.
There’s a lot to be said for maintaining some moderation, and preserving a little bit of mystery. Some say that too much of a good thing is bad for you; others claim there’s no such thing. Where you stand on such issues will no doubt influence how you feel about these next observations about social networking, specifically Facebook. Here are 10 ugly truths that Facebook tells us about ourselves:
- There Is No Such Thing As Privacy – Despite our best efforts to maintain privacy, our lives are an open book. The only difference is whether we open the book ourselves for others to see, or tuck it on a shelf until a time when someone finds it and helps themselves.
- We Measure Our Worth In ‘Likes’ – We post videos, photos, or links in search of approval from both friends and acquaintances, whether we outwardly admit it or not. If it weren’t so, why would we do these things publicly?
- We Gotta Have Friends – Friendships are true treasures, don’t get us wrong. In real life. Gathering friends online whom we have no intention of ever meeting or getting intimate with in any meaningful way suggests a need for validation, and nothing more.
- We Love From A Distance – We don’t know about you, but it’s a lot easier to get along with family when we just have to post updates to them a couple of times a day. Nice, neat, and tidy, with the option to log off whenever we’ve had enough.
- We Hold Grudges – We’ll explain: Think of some of those folks from your hometown, people you knew during your childhood with whom you weren’t even friends with back then, much less now, some twenty years later. Yet here you are sharing photos of your family vacation, weddings, and swimming pool, as if to say, “See? Despite your opinions of me, my life has been a success. Suck on that.” C’mon, you know it’s true.
- All Friends Are Not Created Equally – Nothing drives this point home more clearly than tagged photos. You know what we mean. That birthday party photo of you, Christine, Dave, and who’s that girl next to you? Oh, guess she doesn’t count. ‘Nuff said.
- We’re Music Snobs – There is something entirely too satisfying about sharing an obscure music video on our wall that we’re sure no one else had heard of before. It’s just one more proof that we are oh-so-sophisticated and unique.
- Self-Editing Is Not Our Strong Suit – Give us an online diary where we can vent our spleens, and sure as shootin’, that’s what we’ll do. All day. Anytime, day or night, Drunk or sober. When that blank box stares back at us, asking, “What’s on your mind?” we just have to oblige.
- Our Friends Groups Are Revealing – Facebook ‘friends’ groups are an illustration of our social priorities, a graphic representation of who and what is important to us. Something we might not otherwise have expressed so plainly.
- The More Social We Get, The More Anti-Social We Become – So much of our contact with people in our lives is done via Facebook, to the point that it often replaces in-person connections. If you spend enough time on Facebook, you can grow weary of socializing – without ever having actually seen anyone all day.
We are often curious about how – or even if - historical events might have played out had they occurred in the internet age. Social media, YouTube and instant updates via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the factors that might have altered history if only they were around at the time. For all its influence on how news is disseminated, though, is the internet also capable of changing how it is made? Let’s use Watergate as an example, and look at ten realistic ways in which it the Watergate events may have been different with the internet:
- One undeniable by-product of the internet age is a reduced attention span among the vast majority of its users. The 24-hour news cycle that was born with the ‘net wears out stories quickly. It’s entirely possible that the public might have grown weary of the scandal before it ever even got a chance to fully break.
- Anonymous sources like Deep Throat might have taken to social media profiles to leak their info rather than meeting with investigative reporters. This could have broken the news faster, but the credibility factor might have kept it from fully developing.
- Public perceptions would likely be molded on a daily basis via Twitter accounts, as well as the political slants that many blogs and news outlets would bring to the story. The polarizing effect of these forces might have kept the impeachment process from ever getting started.
- It’s extremely unlikely that a scandal of such scope would be handled exclusively by just a handful of journalists. The sheer number of news sites and blogs covering the story would lead to questions about the credibility of sources.
- Absent a strong media or public consensus about the findings, it would be a lot easier for President Nixon et al to refute them, and wriggle free of being directly implicated.
- The ability to use the internet for campaigning might have rendered the need to spy on the Democratic Party headquarters a moot point for the Republicans. In which case, Watergate might never have happened at all.
- Frank Wills, the security guard who reported the burglary, thereby breaking the story, might very well have been surfing the internet that night on his iPad and never seen the break-in. We know, we’ve done it.
- For that matter, the conspirators could have opted to hack into the Democratic Party’s website rather than attempt an old-fashioned burglary. In that case, it’s possible that a trail leading back to the conspirators would never have been found.
- With the options of using email, Skype, video chats, etc., it might have been a lot harder to find evidence implicating the conspirators. Evidence like audio tapes, address books and personal notes would probably not exist in the digital age.
- The advent of the internet signified the beginning of the end for many newspapers and also resulted in the downsizing of news staffs everywhere. We wonder if there might not have been enough good journalists around to sniff out the story.
The topic that was dangling at the forefront of most American’s minds at the end of 2011, and even seeping into the beginning of 2012, was the fate of the internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act, discussed further below, whipped citizens into a frenzy and led to the largest internet-based protest to date. In light of a slightly-reworked, renamed SOPA’s emergence, here are ten failed attempts by the American government to control the internet.
- Communications Decency Act (1996) –The portions of the Communications Decency Act that were the most controversial were the ones that attempted to regulate internet pornography; a judiciary panel stated that the bill would infringe on First Amendment rights and the bill was squashed.
- Child Online Protection Act (1998) – Though the Child Online Protection Act was passed in 1998, a federal injunction claiming that the language was too broad caused the law to never take effect.
- Internet School Filtering Act (1998) – While many of the Internet School Filtering Act’s points were eventually enacted through other legislation that did pass, the original bill was struck down.
- Deleting Online Predators Act (2006) – The Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 would have prohibited the use of social networking sites on school or library computers; critics argued, however, that the bill would also limit access to educationally useful information, and as such the bill languished.
- Intellectual Property Enforcement Act (2007) – Proposed during the 110th session of Congress in an attempt to shore up American intellectual property laws, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Act would have allowed the Department of Justice to press civil charges against those suspected of infringement.
- Cybersecurity Act (2009) – Though reworded versions of the Cybersecurity Act have been reintroduced each year since the original bill was drafted, public outcry over the unprecedented level of control it would grant the government with has kept any of them from passing.
- Protecting Cyberspace As a National Asset Act (2010) – Senator Joe Lieberman introduced the Protecting Cyberspace As a National Asset Act in 2010. He then promptly incurred the wrath of critics for citing China’s similar policies in an attempt to portray the bill as standard government procedure.
- Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (2010) – Activist organizations launched a full-scale attack on COICA, and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden publicly announced his intention to block the bill. Though it did pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was killed off before it ever reached fruition.
- PROTECT IP Act (2011) – The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, a re-write of the failed COICA introduced by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, was one of the 2011 targets of internet activists. The protests launched by major internet players led to the postponement of the bill until the issues were resolved, granting Americans a temporary victory.
- Stop Online Piracy Act (2011) – Arguably the biggest rallying point for activists in 2011 and early 2012, SOPA led to full and partial protests that shutdown major websites in January of 2012. The bill was postponed until “there is wider agreement on a solution.”
Entertainment industry heavyweights have not given up on their crusade to end piracy; rather than changing their business model to adapt to the needs of a changing world, they’ve chosen to attack the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.