'Captain Fantastic' Stars Explain Why Ditching Social Media Is The Most Liberating Experience Ever

Technology can be a bitch. But on the other hand, it’s allowed us to utilize advancements far beyond belief. In the buzzed-about Sundance hit Captain Fantastic , out this Friday, Ben (Viggo Mortensen) explores a life free of conventional society by raising his six kids to be brilliant, physically strong, independent thinkers in the woods. The movie, strongly casted and well-written, made me reconsider everything about how we think we should be living — technology being a huge part of that. After speaking with the film’s leading women, including Kathryn Hahn and 17-year-olds Annalise Basso and Samantha Isler, I realize just how harmful technology and of course, social media, can be to our well-being — especially as women. Basso and Isler not only ditched social media (because they had to while filming), but let go of beauty standards as well in the process, and their story is nothing short of inspiring.

While both ladies partake in a little Twitter or Instagram here and there, they’re nowhere near Kardashian status, nor do they want to be. Still, they see the upsides. “[It’s] this wonderful thing where people can connect and keep people updated with what’s going on in their lives,” says Isler, admitting to posting the occasional vacation pic. “I think it’s fun,” she says. Still, they recognize that posting in moderation is key, which everyone forgets.

“That’s the lesson that isn’t really taught,” says Basso. “Most teenagers and everyone who has access to this technology should be taught that you have to balance your time right so that you aren’t totally invested in these pictures when you have people around you who can contribute to building yourself and stimulating yourself instead of technology.” This 17-year-old’s priorities are clearly in line.

As for Isler, she acknowledges social media’s potential to just have fun or make change, but believes we’re far too consumed with technology now — to the point where it can be dangerous. “[People] invest their lives and value themselves based on how many likes they get on a Instagram picture or how many Facebook friends they have.” I know I personally feel effected by this, and Basso relates, saying how posting continuous selfies has caused a epidemic of narcissism. "Especially in my generation,” she says.

Putting it simply, Basso thinks social media should be used "for change.”

In a way, what these two girls did by not using it, does encourage change. “Models get paid just to post pictures on Instagram, they’ll give you thousands of dollars,” says Isler. “I don’t know if it’s so much social media’s fault or a psychological thing, but it makes you have this pressure where you feel like you wanna look [a certain way],” she adds. Playing these characters caused both girls to rethink our obsession with social media, as it made me rethink it as well. “I think this movie’s really great because this girls grew up without that. They couldn’t tell you what Instagram was if they tried,” says Isler.

Practicing the lifestyle of living in the woods and free of Twitter fingers strongly impacted them both physically and mentally. Basso says that the movie’s costume designer encouraged the girls to avoid shaving and wearing makeup. “The makeup we used on set was minimal instead of pounds of concealer and eyeliner and mascara and everything,” Basso explains.

And her feelings on it? “A really liberating experience,” she says. I can’t imagine how freeing it would be to live completely naturally as I am — no makeup, no billboards with models, no looking at selfies, no nothing. But of course, the unfortunate side of our reality sets in. “When you go back to LA, or wherever, it’s just not that same environment where you feel as free. When you’re being encouraged not to shave for the first time in your life, it makes you think, ‘OK, this is what’s wrong,’” says Basso.

The new levels of narcissism are disturbing, there’s no doubt about that. However, Hahn, mom on set and in real life, points out that our over-indulgence with social media has caused us to be so obsessed with what other people look like and are doing, that we give ourselves zero time to look inward. “I just read something the other day in the New York Times that gave me so much to think about: why technology is actually starting the decline of self-reflection,” the 42-year-old says. “Those moments where we would just be taking a breath, sitting outside after you have lunch, now everyone’s just on their phones. That art of self-reflective is dying.”

Something to think about, right? And this comes from a woman who opts out of social media completely. She jokes that it’s because she’s “a little grandma” with an AOL account and Filofax (literally), but she still sees the negative effects. “I started thinking about that a lot, why I sometimes feel so anxious or jittery because I haven’t had that meditative breath of putting down the phone and just sitting still somewhere,” she says. “I get made fun of all the time. But I totally now get it. I got my iPhone and I really see how you can be sucked in. It’s hard.”

When given the choice of giving up everything we know and living a secluded life in the woods or remaining in a technology-obsessed society, all three women choose the latter, but with limitations. “I would definitely be immersed in the world. You’re going to be able to develop socially and as a human being… have to deal with awful human beings and meet great other ones. Deal with politics, I feel like that’s such an important part of human development,” Isler says. “Living out in the woods is so beautiful but personally, I don’t know how they could do it. As far as technology goes, everything in moderation is OK.”

Basso agrees, saying: “I would want to remain in society, but I would want to make nature a larger part of my life.” As for Hahn? She’s content out of the woods and with her Filofax. “[Social media] is so helpful for certain performers to have. I totally get it. Or for projects. I get the power of it now, for publicity. But I never really found the need for it,” she says.

I won’t deny that I’ll probably check my Instagram feed a few times after this. But the input from these women really made me think. Even if I limit the times I refresh my feed or ignore the feeling of having to shave on any given day, I still think those changes will be a few steps closer in allowing me to quiet society’s constant noise in my head.

Images: Bleecker Street (6)