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Patton Oswalt on Life, Love, and Catfishing

I think a lot of us do that when we’re reading social media or texting. We imagine an inflection that’s not there. It’s interesting to me, as a parent, to think about watching this movie now, versus if a 20-year-old me was watching it. I was just trying to think back to when I realized that my parents were just people who made choices, or even just people. That can be a scary moment. I remember growing up, I had a couple of friends who had to go through the realization of, “Oh, my parents are still kind of teenagers in a lot of ways. They’re not the final authority on things, and they are still very, very fluid, and still going through changes.” You want that to be stable, so to have that taken away feels like a universal experience for me, at least. Did working on this movie make you think about your own daughter, or how you talk to her about internet privacy, security, and what we share online? That was something that we had been talking about already, because any parent can see how this is snowballing and going into very bad directions. Our daughter’s 13. She doesn’t have a phone and she doesn’t have a social media presence yet. We want to stave that off as long as possible, because those years in the wilderness are where you get to form who you are. Because a lot of kids are being filmed or are broadcasting themselves from an ea rly age, they’re letting the time that they’re living in form them, and then they’re getting stuck in that moment in time. Everyone should have their years to make bad decisions with no one watching you or judging you, and with none of it being recorded permanently. The definition of what it means to connect with someone has shifted so dramatically in the past 10 or so years that I wonder whether kids today even have the same definition of what that means as we might have. Unfortunately I think with a lot of social media interaction there is that fantasy element, because you’re typing it out as a script in your mind. I mean, this also happens in face-to-face interactions. But especially online, you want it to go a certain way, you want a certain response, you want a certain inflection, and when it goes off the script that you formed in your head it can take you down some bad roads. Trying to make reality form into your fantasy or your ideal can end up being kind of dangerous. How has that played out in your own relationship to social media? You’re not immune to its charms. You use it, and in some sense it’s part of your job. Anyone that’s like, “I never read the comments”—uh, yes, you did. But it takes you a long, long time to start realizing, “Wait a minute, comments don’t really matter.” Just do your own thing and put it out there.

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