This Filmmaker Explores Social Media Depression, And the Simple Act of Putting Down Your Phone

It’s not our fault we love social media. Like, we really, really love it. It gives us the chance to connect, and to curate and to let you in on the most exciting parts of our lives. We can teleport worlds and realities, and experience things otherwise left unknown. But with all the excitement, we can also become lost creating a life that looks real, but isn’t (hello Essna O’Neil, hello Her). Worse, we can make the assumption that the life someone else is sharing is the one they’re actually living…

So while we appreciate – maybe even revel in – the communication and access of the social age, we also know there’s no amount of followers that can compensate for face-to-face, skin-to-skin contact. When perceived popularity is based more on likes, clicks and shares, than real-time ability to engage with those that mean the most where does that leave us?

To help us ignite this conversation we sat down with feminist, filmmaker and expert content creator, Kerith Lemon whose short film, A Social Life, takes an intimate look at the idea of social media depression (yes, that’s a thing), FOMO (the worst), and most importantly, the revolutionary reminder to “live now and post later.”


LF: You’ve produced multiple indie films, and worked major roles for CBS radio, MTV and the OWN Network. Do companies use social media much differently than individuals do?

KL: I don’t think so. If a brand uses social media well, they can connect in really personal ways to show a little more compassion and empathy in the world. If you look at brands like Dove and Jet Blue, I think they’re doing it right. Dove used twitter in a powerful way on Oscar night, encouraging women to #speakbeautiful about each other and Jet Blue uses their platforms for quick customer service efforts. For brands, it comes down to knowing your audience and using the platforms to reach them.

LF: A Social Life uses very little actual dialog but we still get to know Meredith, the main character. What makes her so identifiable?  Should we be scared that we can so easily connect with a character that doesn’t seem to truly interact with anything but her phone?

KL: I think that the phone has become so prolific as a habit in our lives just showcasing the action in the film makes it easy for all audiences to connect with Meredith. I’ve found that every person that’s watched the film has either done at least one of the actions that Meredith is doing or has seen a friend do it. That being said, I don’t think we need to be scared about this, that to me doesn’t leave us any room for change. Phones and other devices are going to be part of our lives going forward, so there’s no avoiding it, but I’d like to see us be aware of the deeper toll it’s taking on our self-image and that of our wider community.

LF: Many artists are arguably more prolific with their posts than they are their actual craft. To that end, many personal accounts are carefully curated fractions of real life. Is that the future?

KL: I sure hope not, but the more we can shine a light on the fact that social media is only a fraction of our lives, and that more often than not it’s cropping the reality of life out of the picture, the more we will begin to view other’s posts with a grain of salt. Hopefully we remember that social media is not the whole story. We still need to take the time to connect personally with people and ask each other how we’re really doing.

LF: Do you think it’s possible for artists, filmmakers and other public figures to exist without Instagram, Twitter and the like?

KL: That’s a tricky question that I love to debate. Obviously you can exist without being on social media – there are plenty of avenues for discovery and publicity for artists, filmmakers and public figures out there – but the benefit to those platforms is that they allow for self promotion that you can control; you can tell your story on your own terms.

LF: Is there a general theme to the stories that you tell, or to those that capture your attention?

KL: I definitely lean toward stories about strong, complex women charting their own paths and I love that I’ve always been surrounded by women like this growing up. It’s such an exciting time for women in entertainment and over the next few years I think we’re going to see far more women in the limelight.

LF: Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

KL: Yes, a thousand times yes. I’m proud to be a feminist and champion all my fellow ladies in their endeavors.

LF: In a recent interview for the magazine, we asked an actress her thoughts on how social media and our obsession with “self” is preventing real underground party cultures like Studio 54 from existing. What are your thoughts on this?

KL: If you’re talking about the celebrity element of the Studio 54 scene, I think, yes, social media has limited that true underground word-of-mouth party culture. It’s blurred the line between public and private life, but at the same time it has also opened up important communities that might otherwise be less accessible to connect on a wider global scale. There are some very positive “underground” movements that have used social media to their advantage; #HeForShe, #BlackLivesMatter, the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. Not “party” culture, like Studio54, but there are many issues that have widened their reach because of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, etc.

LF: What does balance look like to you? Are our digital and “real” lives going to merge to one contemporary reality?

KL: Balance to me looks like being present in our actual day-to-day actions and keeping a clear line between sharing what you’re doing and doing just to share. I hope that our lives don’t merge into one reality because that will mean that we’re experiencing everything digitally and not in real life. I’m not ready to do that just yet.

LF: Social media is something we’re not only consumed with in our day-to-day lives, but also in the news – college football fan selfies, the recent takedown on Instagram illusion by model Essna O’Neil, etc. If we take the time to live now and post later, as you’ve said, what are some other things you wish we’d make more time to focus on?

KL: First and foremost I hope that we focus on our physical and mental health, our personal relationships and giving back in our communities. We’re so distracted with our phones and information being at the end of our fingertips that I think we can easily lose years of our lives doing nothing.  I hope that after watching A Social Life everyone will get up, go outside and connect with someone or something on a meaningful level.

LF: On the opposite end of the spectrum, do you feel there are positive side-affects of social media? Are there accounts you regularly follow? Who are they?

KL: There are so many positive side-affects! Most importantly, I wouldn’t be married to my husband without social media. Though we reconnected in real life, because we lived in different cities, social media influenced our finally spending time together, which kicked off our relationship.  I named a few movements that have done a great job using the medium in a positive way and I also appreciate the platforms for convenience of information and news like the NY Times and CNN and industry news like Variety and Indiewire. For creative inspiration I love VioletGrey, Makerswomen and Afar media and I’m absolutely obsessed with Alan Cummings Instagram. I love his sense of humor.

LF: Who’s the last filmmaker that inspired you?

KL: Most recently it’s Sarah Gavron the director of Sufragette. I’ve seen her film twice already.  I got to see a Q&A with her after one of the screenings and I was so inspired by her tenacity to get the film made, not only for the importance of the story but also her desire to make it a broad film that both men and women could enjoy.

LF: Where’s the last place you went without your phone?

KL: I tend to leave the house quite often on the weekends without my phone – I like to have those moments alone – but the last significant time I was off my phone was for 2 weeks in September for my honeymoon. Technically I still had my “phone” with me for emergency calls but I deleted all the social media apps and shut down my emails while we were abroad. It was so refreshing and really made me think about why I was taking a photo, to capture the moment rather than share on social.

How FAST do you live?

KL: As fast as I can while still clearly seeing the road ahead, but not so fast that I miss any side trips that look interesting along the way.

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