CATFISH and "The Facebook Generation"

Some members of an older, disapproving generation have dubbed the young, tech-savvy, internet-reliant, social network-loving population ‘The Facebook Generation’. But if CATFISH teaches us anything it’s that the phenomenon of virtual relationships can’t be isolated to any one age group; it’s a multi-generation sensation. In fact, Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is the 65+ club, with waves of grandmas, grandpas and retirees joining up to stay in touch.

Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost in Abby’s Michigan home, taken by Yaniv Schulman.

So to say that CATFISH is an adept depiction of ‘The Facebook Generation’ is to say that it’s an adept depiction of life in America today in general. In fact, there hasn’t been a film yet that captures the American zeitgeist since the infiltration of the Internet in such a profound and heartbreaking way. To touch on why it’s profound and heartbreaking would risk spoiling what, without exaggeration, is a truly shocking conclusion. Suffice it to say that when filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman decided to start shooting Ariel’s brother Yaniv as he pursued a relationship with a woman on Facebook, they stumbled onto a story worthy of all of its post-Sundance buzz. It may very well even be a perfect documentary because of the filmmaker’s close relationship with their subject and because unlike most documentaries that know what they’re about from the start, Joost and Schulman are along for the ride, experiencing everything that happens to Yaniv in real time. Likewise, the audience isn’t being told a story, they’re living it with Yaniv, side by side. CATFISH is also a bit of a cautionary tale; If more people are living more of their lives online, what happens to Yaniv is only a hint of the depravity we’ll allow ourselves to indulge in so long as we’re able to do it while remaining hidden behind computer screens.