Searching: Layers of identity in the Digital Age

One of my most recent watches on Netflix was a film called Searching (2018). The film follows protagonist David Kim (John Cho) as he experiences every parent’s worst fear – their child going missing. Throughout the film he plays detective and partners with the police in order to find the truth and try and bring his daughter home. I remember wanting to watch this when it first came out but (annoyingly) it wasn’t showing at as many cinemas near me as I would have liked. And when it did it would be showing at weird times like 10pm and who is honestly going to the cinema at that time?!

Do we ever truly know someone?

This is a question I found hanging in the air as many thoughts passed through my mind as I watched Searching. Although I myself am not a parent I could imagine it is something many parents themselves wonder about their children, particularly in the day and age we live in. Social media means many people can carefully select the side of themselves they want exposed to their followers/ those that admire them. If you have watched the Netflix series One Day at a Time the mother of the family it chronicles in one episode discovers that her son has what is known as a ‘Finsta’ – a fake Instagram account specifically created to cater to the prying eyes of parents who love to monitor their child(ren)’s social media. This is not the case in Searching but it is a demonstration of in-authenticity that social media enables and how users can manipulate how they’re seen in followers’ eyes at will.

One thing that is the case for David though is that he discovers – devastatingly so – that he never really knew Margot, his only child. I can only imagine that such a discovery would be a shock to the system of a parent; it brings into question trust, arouses fear and often threatens the very foundation of a maternal or paternal relationship. David’s daughter, Margot is a loner who often eats lunch alone and fails to associate with a group of friends. This unfortunately creates much difficulty in David’s investigation since he is unable to find any close friends that would know details about Margot’s whereabouts. Many dead ends occur and as a viewer you can feel David’s bubbling frustration as well as the thought lurking somewhere in the back of his mind – that she may no longer be alive. It is evident that part of the reason for the disconnect between David and Margot is maybe generational. David, as a parent from a previous generation is slightly in the dark about the availability of social media forums. At one point he’s led to his daughter’s tumbler and reacts in a way that shows he’s never heard the platform’s name in his life. This gap in knowledge may be frustrating for parents once they know it’s there but many children actually find it beneficial.

David desperately looking through Margot’s Facebook friend’s to find a lead on where she is.

Keeping to the theme of truly knowing someone, no one is who they seem in this theme which leaves room for several plot twists at the end of this film. Since Margot is a loner it means that the film cleverly avoids the solid formula of a whodunit. This is simply because the pool of people to suspect is so small that the possibility of stranger being involved almost makes more sense. It also means we see David reach several dead ends in his self-fuelled investigation to find her.

Interestingly, a significant proportion of the film takes place online. We are given all round access as David, for example attempts to log into his daughter’s social media, FaceTimes various contacts and uses google maps to access a location he wants to visit. I’m personally a low-key fan of tech interactions being shown on screen – i.e. seeing texts on screen between characters. It creates a transparency that I appreciate and helps to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings within the storyline. Of course, I can understand the devil’s advocate position may be that it doesn’t leave room perhaps for interpretation. Nevertheless, it means we’re learning information in real time along with David himself as he discovers information. The only thing I found slightly unrealistic was that David was able to access somehow to his daughter’s social media. Something tells me that most parents wouldn’t find it that easy or even succeed at all if the situation required for them to access their child’s social media accounts. Especially if they’re as close to their child as David is to Margot (which is not at all.)

I’m not too sure about the ending since I think I saw part of it coming. I wouldn’t outright call it ‘bad’ but there is definitely room for improvement. Overall, I enjoyed the film; there’s enough going on for you to stay gripped and guessing – just not till the end since you’ll likely see that coming before you reach it.

Because #Blacklivesmatter

May the fire within you

Light the path before you

On the road to change

People are tired and want change. Or more specifically, BLACK people are tired and want change. We’re tired of seeing on a regular basis black bodies plastered on our social media timelines.  I sincerely hope leaders are wise and remember once again why they are in power.

Yes, all lives do matter but we want to reiterate that BLACK LIVES MATTER simply because in world where that should be obvious it is clearly not. Unarmed black citizens are dying at the hands of the police; an institution tasked with protecting them. Powerless, in pain and with no dignity; no one deserves to die like that.

It is important to note that although George Floyd’s death was the tipping point for the unrest and protests currently happening the problem reaches far wider than police brutality. From the criminal justice system, to healthcare systems and the job market, black people face institutional racism at every turn.

For example, when it comes to police it is likely that the way they are trained coupled with personal biases plays a part in dictating how they perceive threat. This means that saying these incidences are caused by a few ‘bad apples’ is not correct; all officers are trained this way and are made to follow these practices. This means technically they are all capable of committing many of the so – called isolated incidences we often see go viral.

I’m excited about the current surge we see – black people uniting for a common cause and a hunger for change. However, I will be more hopeful once I see those in power being more proactive and helping to accelerate the cause. I sincerely hope this is more than a moment and that we continue to push and be persistent. The UK is yet to see as much breakthrough as our American counterparts; partly because we live in a society that is very stubborn when it comes to the subject of race. However, I remain hopeful; since without hope there is no change.

For my fellow Christians, keep praying – God is in control and the giver of ultimate justice. It’s important that our hearts hate oppression as much as his did.

We are called to speak out against evil when we see it. Whoever said Christianity shouldn’t go alongside political activism lied to you. Yes, we should pray but that shouldn’t be all we do!

Lastly, I would just like to say we need CHANGE. Actual CHANGE. I’m tired of performative gestures, they’re very cute but literally last a minute in the grand scheme of things. Adding the hashtag and blacking out your IG last Tuesday was very nice but we’ve already seen plenty of incidences of companies and influencers who have done this insincerely. I remember randomly seeing a video of some white police officers kneeling before a group of black people and apologising. Once again, very nice but ultimately meaningless. You are part of an institution and therefore have the power to create some REAL ripples within the police force. Start an internal movement, gather like minded officers and place pressure on management – think smart, people!

Education is your friend so keep reading and educating yourself; KNOW what you’re campaigning against and if it isn’t your lived experience then find out – read some Malcolm X, MLK Jr, Audre Lourde, bell hooks etc. and discover how life looks through a black lens. What forms discrimination takes and how it affects lives.

Netflix recommendations: When They See Us, Seven Seconds and Fruitvale Station. Also episode three of Trial by Media which focuses on a police brutality case.

Donate. Sign Petitions. March if you can. Share and amplify black voices and work.

A link to some resources are below:

Great article on what UK citizens can do:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/how-to-support-anti-racist-charities-uk-black-lives-matter-a9545986.html

Resources card kindly created by someone on Twitter (likely to be more US based):

https://moreblminfo.carrd.co/

Ways to help the UK #BLM movement:

https://blm.crd.co/

Your Work & Your Worth

When you find yourself out of a job you suddenly have access to 1000s of resources and benefits stripped away; from software to exclusive networking events. Even deeper than that you find yourself violently shaken from your routine. Suddenly, people, you considered friends who you may have worked with for years are gone. Sally your manager who loved Friday pints at the pub after work no longer calls so you find out the hard way you were only friends out of convenience. On top of all that you find that due to lack of money you have to start declining social events, you would have happily attended – or even have organised – when you were working. These things all tend to slowly knock your confidence and erode your happiness.

It, therefore, can’t seem surprising that your job can become entangled with your perception of your self-worth. I noticed this in the little things once I quit my role earlier this year and was looking for another. For example, when I would introduce myself to new people it felt weird that I couldn’t jump to the topic of what I do and the industry I’m in. It’s a classic icebreaker topic although I now realise it doesn’ reveal as much about a person as we may think. Another instance was when I went to an industry panel event and the sign-up form required me to fill in my place of work – which was nowhere of course. I ended up putting something to that effect in the field just to fill it but it did annoy me that that was even part of the form, therefore technically ruling out people like me from coming. That is people who are looking for work and still want to go to such events to network and stay informed on industry trends.

Anyway – moving on…

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Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

As we find ourselves in mandatory lockdown, unexpectedly confined to the walls of our homes, it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to be productive. It’s after the all the currency we use to measure our days when we’re out and about. Being able to tick tasks off our physical or mental to-do lists also gives a little dopamine rush; thus making us want to get even more done. We’re seeing a lot of things from various articles and social media influencers of things to do during a lockdown or a showcase of things they’ve managed to do. Learn a new language. Read 11 books. Become a master of coding and video editing (because one skill clearly isn’t enough.) In all honesty, I am not guilt-free when it comes to failing to listen to this pressure. Recently, I decided to try and increase my proficiency in WordPress and get better at promoting my blog content a bit more.

To be honest, the pressure feels quite burdensome and the demands stemming from it unrealistic. It feels like we’re worker ants constantly scuttling, never knowing when to be still and rest. This Guardian article which covers similar ground makes the interesting point that these pressures, coming primarily from the ‘hustle culture’, don’t actually benefit us. Rather, it benefits the Capitalist structure we are engrained in; that worker ant mentality drilled in us from childhood (i.e. school) is only done so with the endpoint being too make us ideal employees. And it does. It makes us great, efficient employees but can also spill over into our private lives causing unnecessary stress because productivity at home will never look like productivity does at work.

Why should it be a bad thing that my to-do list just consists of blog writing and shows to watch on Netflix? The time for such things may as well be now because once we’re back to normalcy, it will be like we had this moment to pause and recuperate. Overall, it is not a bad thing to decide on a personal endeavour like earning a language or instrument etc. Just know two things:

  1. Do it because you want to; don’t do it because you find yourself bowing to that external pressure I referred to. Be driven by interest and passion, not because you want to be able to cite a long list to people post-lockdown of all you accomplished.
  2. Your worth will not change even if your productivity levels do; you may be busy and buzzing some days but not on others and that’s perfectly fine.  This is a stressful time for everyone but in different ways; so we are all dealing with it how we can.

That last point also applies to those like myself who are reading this and are in the middle of a job search. I encourage you to keep going, know that you’re not alone and always have value – with or without a job.