>> It isn’t very often that a documentary about social media can urge viewers to put down their own devices throughout the duration of the film. However, Jonathan Ignatius Green’s ‘Social Animals’ succeeds in providing the audience with a captivating narrative and engaging cast of characters to encourage the spectator’s full attention. As a documentary with a primary focus on Instagram, Green follows the lives of three teenagers: An ‘outlaw’ photographer, an aspiring model, and an ‘average’ Midwest girl to document the extreme lengths that these teens will go to reach instafame and validation from virtual strangers on the internet.
There isn’t a moment in this documentary where something dramatic or absurd isn’t happening-- from daredevil photographer Humza Deas receiving online death threats from the urban exploration community in NYC to the fifteen-year-old instafamous aspiring model and fashionista Kaylyn Slevin having to censor out illicit comments from men in the comments section of her photos-- ‘Social Animals’ is all action. Oftentimes, documentary filmmakers choose to stop at the ‘absurd’ or the extreme-- but Green pushes past this expectation by combining elements of each teenager’s personal life with their role in the online world. By pairing edgy scenarios with the ordinary everyday activities of these young adults, ‘Social Animals’ succeeds in portraying an honest representation of each character’s personality without sparing the film’s entertainment value.
‘Social Animals’ gives a valuable window into the world of teens and young adults using Instagram as a tool to ‘brand’ themselves and create a name within their desired industry. Unlike other documentaries about social media, Green doesn’t give a wholly biased or negative representation of the media platform by exclusively showcasing the adverse effects of Instagram usage. Rather, he juxtaposes the ways that Instagram can be used to nurture success for young professionals with the reality of online ‘trolling’ and cyberbullying. While the narratives surrounding the three teenagers were undeniably entertaining to watch, the segments in between each story where ‘normal’ teens respond to questions about the unspoken ‘rules of Instagram’ and the online dating world felt a touch more relatable and realistic than the instafamous examples.
If you’re looking for a documentary that gives an accurate representation of both the positive and negative effects of social media usage on young adults, Jonathan Ignatius Green’s ‘Social Animals’ should be number one on your to-watch list. 8.5/10 <<