For anyone reading this, it is safe to assume you are – at least – a digital immigrant. Our generation is the first to truly grow up around technology; the first children of the digital age, and all the advancements it has been able to offer to society.
However, society can sometimes be a little slow to catch up, at least on a pop culture level. For example, older people – those over the age of 55 – are over characterized as being clueless around technology, relying on their children to help them navigate the new digital world.
In reality, those over the age of 55 are also digital immigrants. They were in their early 40s when the internet moved from a niche academic project to a way of changing how we interact with the world forever. Older people aren’t technologically illiterate; just look at the age demographics for Facebook on www.statista.com if you want that confirmed.
The above example is far from the only way that pop culture has misjudged the tech revolution and how it has changed the way we see and interact with the world. Below are six more examples that all writers for TV shows, movies, and particularly advertising need to catch up on…
‘ONLINE DATING IS CREEPY!’
TV shows have been spinning stories about how creepy online dating is for over a decade now. The premise is always the same: a character we care about goes on an online date. The date is either incredibly creepy, or somehow unhinged. The idea that is pushed as a result is almost offensive: online dating is weird. Proper people meet their mate in the real world. Get offline and start socializing.
The idea of socializing to meet a potential romantic partner is fine, but here’s the thing pop culture writers seem to have ignored: online dating is becoming the norm. 15 years ago, sure, most of society was extremely sceptical about online dating, furthered by the perception that anyone who is keen on the internet is likely to be an overweight manchild who lives in their parents’ basement.
Now, times have changed. Online dating has become a standard facet of life and it can be incredibly successful. Most of us know at least one couple who met online or via a dating app– it’s not remotely weird anymore. Yet for some reason, pop culture has yet to update to this reality, and online dating is still seen as outright bizarre in a plethora of TV shows and movies– which is all the more odd when you consider some of the writers of these TV shows and movies will have used online dating. It’s a trope that really, really needs to go.
‘TECHNOLOGY IS TO BE FEARED!’
There have been countless TV shows, movies, and video games that have sought to teach a lesson: technology is a bad thing. Technology is forcing humans to lose touch with their humanity. Technology will, ultimately, be the doom of the human race.
This is such a bizarre story to tell, yet for some reason, it keeps being told. Are there risks to technology? Of course– there are numerous tech developments that may prove problematic in years to come, and even the most devout tech fan needs to accept that.
However, technology is not inherently dangerous, troubling, or a cause for huge concern. The next time a TV show or movie tries to teach this lesson, then it’s worth remembering some of the things that technology has allowed us to achieve:
- Medicine has never been safer due to technology. From robot surgeons that never tire to diagnostic exams that the doctors of 50 years ago could only have dreamed of, technology has changed human health for the better.
- Technology has allowed processes and construction to be more refined than ever before. From companies like www.LaserLight.com making advances in micro-machining through to the incredible increase in data storage capabilities, technological advances have allowed us to make everything smaller, more compact, more easily managed.
- Technology has changed the way that we interact with people for the better. 20 years ago, if your dearest relatives moved to Canada, then you’d probably lose touch with them almost entirely. Save for a Christmas card and a couple of extortionately-expensive phone calls, they would largely disappear from your frame of reference. Nowadays, if your family moves to Canada, that’s not really a problem – you’ll still be able to follow their everyday lives on social media, talk to them on Skype, and swap pictures and stories within 10 minutes of an important event occurring. The connectivity that we are able to enjoy as a result cannot be underestimated.
So while there are potential threats to heed warnings of when it comes to tech, there’s no need for such a heavy-handed approach to dealing with technology. A little more insight into how tech has improved lives would be nice.
#3 – ONLY ‘WEIRD’ PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN THE INTERNET
We’re all interested in the internet these days– it’s impossible not to be. The internet is the source of so much of our lives. It’s how we connect with friends and family; it’s how we find jobs; how we undertake education; it’s even how we can engage in activism by writing blogs and publishing opinion pieces. The internet has allowed voices to be heard that would have otherwise remained silent…
… which is why it’s so mystifying that being interested in, and vociferously using, the internet is still seen as something only “weird” people engage in.
Not sure you’re convinced that such a reductive, obviously-incorrect portrait of internet users is still in existence? Enter Exhibit A, a music video:
This is Lily Allen’s “URL Bad Man”, which depicts a respected music journalist as… a loser who sits in his mum’s house ranting on the internet (you can hear the journalist’s side of the story here, if you’re interested). This video is three years old now, but it was still ridiculous three years ago; nothing has changed about internet habits and user interactions in the past three years. It’s all the more bizarre, given Allen’s age, that she would dismiss internet users, writers, and content producers as bitter, lonely, and miserable.
It’s an attitude that persists. People who like using the internet, engaging on message boards, playing games online– they’re losers. TV shows and movies even take this trope further by insisting that these people need to “learn to live” and “stop being obsessed with their screens”– forgetting that we’re all only obsessed by our screens because our screens hold our lives now. It’s akin to mocking someone for using a paper diary 20 years ago.
#4 – HACKING. PERIOD.
Hacking, as depicted in TV shows and movies, is almost entirely nonsense. The visual shown is usually something along the lines of:
- The “hacker” pulls up a screen on a computer
- The screen is usually black, with green text (for some reason)
- They begin typing something at a ridiculously fast pace
- They then gain access to anything and everything they may want to see on another person’s computer.
Hacking… doesn’t work like that. It’s time-consuming, error-prone, and often doesn’t elicit anything in the way of material at all. Hacking definitely doesn’t involve speed-typing a string of code into a mysterious screen; nor does it only take a few seconds to gain absolute access to sensitive files.
In some ways, it’s easy to see why TV shows and movies depict hacking in this way. Firstly, it’s mystifying; as the “hacking” isn’t actually remotely close to what hacking constitutes, the TV show/movie cannot be blamed if someone tries to copy it. Secondly, most writers don’t truly understand what goes into hacking anyway, and as hacking is primarily used as a plot device, it’s not worth their time and effort to find out more.
While it’s easy to understand why hacking looks so terrible on TV shows and movies, it is nevertheless somewhat disconcerting that hacking is always portrayed as a sure thing. The character wants information and is then able to hack their way to this information. This kind of scenario doesn’t help with the paranoia many people fear about technology in general, so the occasional depiction of a failed hacking attempt wouldn’t go amiss.
The reason many of these tropes exist in pop culture is, frankly, because they are an accepted part of pop culture. While we may now be well ensconced in the digital age, many of us carry over the beliefs and ideas that formed our childhood; TV show writers, advertising executives, and movie producers are much the same. We might know that these portrayals are misleading or false, but we’re used to them, so they become a staple.
In the future, and particularly as Generation Z become content creators, we may see these tropes finally begin to die out– but for now, it looks like we’re stuck tutting every time we see them.