Moments that Matter: Searching

There are plenty of moments in movies where the use of a smartphone – either to look something up, call somebody, etc. would be incredibly useful, however this is frustratingly never done. Searching, addresses this common occurrence head on, and in doing so actually shows that technology can hide as much as it exposes.

The film revolvea around how John Cho uses technology, social media in particular, to solve the mystery behind his missing daughter. The movie is a thoroughly well-done suspense movie done from the viewpoint of Cho’s computer, interjected with camera footage and news reports. Outside of the well-executed suspense film, the movie does an excellent job in demonstrating how technology both allows us to expose anyone online, but also lacks tone, perspective, and context which initself can hide the complete story from the user.

The marquee moments boil over in the final third of the movie. The first of which occurs when the investigation runs into a dead end. Cho’s character is nearing wit’s end as he notices/reads through recent messagss between his missing daughter and his brother (played by Joseph Lee). The messages have a seemingly sinful tone leading Cho to interrogate and accuse his brother of unspeakable acts. In reality, his brother didn’t do anything terrible, and the tone of the messages truly misled Cho into an incorrect conclusion. While Cho had what he thought was the full story in front of him via his daughter’s text messages, further unseen context betrays his assumptions. One could argue that he would’ve been better off never having this “lead” in the first place. This scene does go a long way in developing the relationship between Cho and his daugther, showing him that (go figure) his daughter was experiencing similar struggles dealing with the loss of her mother/Cho’s wife and simply wanted to talk about it (a longer piece possibly in the works on this trope). Other than this tidbit of character development that seemingly improves the relationship between this fictional family in this fictional universe than it would’ve been otherwise, it really wasn’t needed to solve the case.

The second of these moments exhibits technology’s ability to conceal. After the case is seemingly closed, Cho can’t accept the findings of the case, and investigates further. He uses a search to confirm that a supposed dead end was actually a cover up by the lead investigator. This false identity was so easily crafted using a false name and stock photo from a similar search. This ease of creating a false alias is actually what starts the course of the events of the entire film.

Searching has a happy ending. However, this impact of technology will only grow as we advance as a society and a species. The ease of uncovering someone’s identity has already had significant real-world impact. While in Searching, this had a positive impact, in the real world this has led to doxing and worse, swatting. Creating and using a false identity has even manifested itself into a MTV show, Catfish. Searching will have the lasting impact of foreshadowing these long-term technological impacts, and how it shapes the way we function.

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