What would life be like if we were not constantly checking our phones every five minutes? We shut it down, and the next instant, we turn it on for a reason as simple as to check the time, and then, as if by instinct, we start going through the updates on the myriad of social media apps. But it is not just a means of constant communication; it is a tool of survival. It wakes us up in the morning and has an infinite number of features that help us “set the mood for the day.” There is really an app for everything. They will lull us to sleep if we want to, tell us what to wear, who we looked like in a previous life, and even plan our lives for us if we want them to. Our lives are governed by what we see on the screens and how much work can be done on them. In fact, if you are someone who successfully manages to limit their screen time, you will find that you might not have a lot to talk about with others who are all discussing what they have discovered through their phones. Every single thing that the phone does is a necessity, not a luxury, and that has made the human race vulnerable in a way we couldn’t have imagined before.
We are not going to talk about whether technology and social media have limited human interaction or not because we sincerely believe that they have, at best, just changed the face of it. We are going to talk about our dependence on it and whether there is an alternative. As we type this, we remember how our grandmother used to tell us that they used to always leave their doors open because there was a “culture of trust in communities that was later ruined by smartphones.” Needless to say, we don’t believe a word of that because smartphones are nothing more than a tool. Any intelligence they might have gained is not yet accessible to the public. But whatever we might say or feel, we can’t deny that the first time we saw Lee Na Mi’s face in the movie “Unlocked” was when she was taking a selfie with her friends.
The phone is not just something she uses to keep up with the world; it is also how she handles her money and her entire personal life, as well as her ambition to do something for herself by running a second Instagram account. It wasn’t lost on us that her father created an Instagram account purely to be more involved in his daughter’s life. She was not going to tell him the nitty gritty of her life, like when she woke up, what she ate for lunch, or whether she had lost her phone. When our parents ask us how we have been, we generally respond with “fine” and don’t really bother with the rest. It might be a recurring joke between our friends and us that we should not accept our parents’ friend requests, but we forget that in a changing world, they are just trying to find a way to communicate with us through a medium we are comfortable with.
Come to think of it, if it was a matter of information, Jun Yeong had pretty much the same information that anyone close to Na Mi had. Even her best friend knew about her likes and dislikes and her second social media account. Not just her, but we are sure that an ex-boyfriend or even some of her colleagues could have known the things. None of the information that Jun Yeong accessed about Na Mi’s life was a secret; it was already out in the open. Yet what made him so much more sinister than the rest? It was a matter of access and intention. Before we blame the smartphone for this, let us stop to consider for a moment that in a world where the device did not exist, could the same not have been done by a malicious person?
Jun Yeong knew the band she followed and the drink she liked just by snooping in on her conversations. He knew what she was doing at any point in the day. In fact, she wasn’t the first person he did this to. He had repeated this behavior with multiple others and, in fact, stolen the identity of one of his victims, the real Jun Yeong, to be able to do what he was doing now. Something to understand is that while he used phones as a tool, it was his innately psychopathic nature that was the driving force behind his actions.
What we can say for sure is that phones and the internet have made our world very fast, so much so that intuition, which usually takes a second to show up, is overshadowed by the moment. Think about it: a guy showing up at your cafe wearing a cap for a team that you support, asking for a drink that you like, and having the exact tickets that you want is a case of too many coincidences. It is still acceptable to have one or two things in common, but so many? Why didn’t Na Mi’s hackles rise the instant she saw this? Maybe the abundance of picture-perfect romances on her social media made her think that it was some sort of “meet-cute” waiting to happen? However, her father’s intuition was not dulled by hours of screen time, and he recognized Jun Yeong for the trouble that he was. He came from a generation that relied more on memory than looking up facts instantly on the internet, which is why he caught Jun Yeong’s bluff.
Jun Yeong knew that there was no other way to deal with him than to physically attack the man and tie him up because he couldn’t get information about his life from the internet. While it was not shown in the movie “Unlocked,” we wonder how the killer must have zeroed in on the real Jun Yeong to steal his identity. Did he know him personally, or did he know him by snooping through his phone? Either way, Jun Yeong had figured out that his family would not look for him if he disappeared. This wasn’t the result of getting his hands on some information; it was an innate sense of human relationships that led him to the realisation.
Towards the end of the movie, “Unlocked,” it is revealed that the killer was someone whose birth was never registered. This was symbolic of the anonymous ways in which we can be attacked on the internet. But within the story, it doesn’t take much to understand the kind of life a nameless, faceless person must have lived, with no access to facilities and having to steal or depend on the charity of others for even the most basic human dignities. We are not justifying his behaviour but rather pointing out that this was not the fault of a phone.
Essentially, we believe that smartphones might have changed the world, but they haven’t changed people. We are all still the same complicated bunch we always were, except that our methods of communication are different, and what has made us more secure has also made us more vulnerable. The only thing to be done about it is to be vigilant and aware because we don’t see the collective screentime of the world going down any time soon. Also, please don’t give your password to just anyone.