Review: Documentary SOCIAL ANIMALS Holds A Mirror Up To The Instagram Generation

4 out of 5 stars

The power of social media is fascinating. Users are able to connect with people from all over the world, using various platforms to market products and even themselves. You only have to look at how Donald Trump used Twitter to help score the US presidential office to see that with the right leverage, anything is possible with the click of a button and carefully placed hashtag.

On the surface, a study of a particular social media platform might seem like an unwieldy task, but director Jonathan Ignatius Green’s Social Animals manages to cover the basics and deliver some very interesting character profiles in the process. It’s a film which has plenty to offer the uninitiated and the expert. It might appear to be about technology, but it’s really about humanity. 

A investigation into the power of Instagram, Green’s film is a fascinating look at three very different teenagers whose live have all been impacted by using the social networking service. We meet Kayln Slevin, budding fashonista with her eye set on the prize of being a Kardashian-size influencer; Humza Deas, an extreme photographer who manages to score acclaim on the New York arts scene and Emma Crockett, a regular teenager who is pushed to the limits by the negative power of everything that is wrong with social media. 

Green and co-writers Carol Martori and Peter Garriott have crafted an impressive narrative by having these teens share their own experiences. Kayln, the daughter of a millionaire businessman sees her use of Instagram as a way of carving out her own way in life and offering-up glitz and glamour in the process. Humza falls into his Instagram success by accident and he’s grateful that it has offered him opportunities that he may never have received. Meanwhile, Emma shows how dangerous the platform is, with online bullying leading her to try and take her own life. Each of these stores are fascinating, but Emma’s is truly heartbreaking. 

Success, fame, wealth and happiness might be the ultimate goal, but these Instagram stories all have cautionary elements. Stalkers, death threats and bullying feature in all of these tales and deep down you can’t help but think that the result of having these wonderful pictures online is a Dorian Gray deep rotting of the soul. 

A fascinating piece of filmmaking, Social Animals is a film which will make you think twice about social media. Some parents will be wary for their children, while others might see it as a fast track to success. Whatever the case, you’ll see that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle and a whole generation of teenagers are now living a life which is alien to many, but second nature to others.