107 minutes / 2011
A highlight in Captivated is an epic rant by Professor Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans. When asked what he would say to his students caught up in the digital age, his answer is worth the price of the film:
Do something different with yourselves. That means reading books. Know a little bit about history…. You’ll encounter people [there] who actually faced real stakes in their lives. [They] didn’t sit around and say, “Oh my girlfriend dumped me. I feel so terrible; let me go talk to my friends. I’ll go change my Facebook page.” The trivia of youth are amplified by these digital tools. What is the motto of YouTube? Broadcast yourself. Well guess what? Yourself may not be that important. That may not be such a great subject to focus so much time on. One of the most dismaying things about you guys is you get together and all you talk about is yourselves and what you do. You don’t talk about anything else. Do you know how boring you are?”
Of course, the self-absorption of youth is not the film’s only target. Parents are liable to feel pretty uncomfortable when their own enslavement to digital media is highlighted. Captivated asks, how can we use media, and use these tools without becoming enslaved to them? It promotes moderation, but in what is surely the most controversial segment, suggests a one-month media fast can help families connect, and better regain balance in their lives. One father, Erik Engstrom, notes that it can’t be “just about taking away – if all you do is take away something from your kids, and leave them with nothing, they’re in no better spot.” So the fast also has to involve feasting – feasting on family board games, on biking together, shooting hoops, conversations with mom and dad about the books that kids are reading and much more.
There’s much more to this documentary, and all of it challenging and thought-provoking. It’s a decade old now, so that means there’s nothing on Tik Tok and more than you might expect on TV viewing, but the overall principles discussed are just as relevant as ever. It’s highly recommended, and you can watch it for free below.