You Committed a Fatal Error: Social Media, Ghosts in the Machine, and the Uploadable Aesthetic

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Belonging to the burgeoning found footage horror subgenre, Unfriended (Dir. Levan Gabriadze, 2014) uses aesthetics associated with user-generated content sites and networking sites such as Facebook, to engage with the longstanding genre tradition of the ghost story.

By engaging with concepts such as Jeffrey Sconce's "haunted media", this paper will contribute to scholarly understanding of a new breed of social media horror. It will demonstrate how Unfriended provides a filmic space for investigating emergent cultural anxieties due to the rise of social media such as digital anonymity, stalking and cyberbullying. With gore sites such as allowing us unprecedented access to real death footage, and the rise of online memorial sites such as, it is clear that death and dying is circulating with increasing visibility online. The internet being used as a tool to mourn death, and in the cases of suicide due to cyberbullying such as Audrie Pott, cause death.

With the narrative unfolding within the limits of a laptop screen and the overarching message of the film being 'what you have done here will live forever,' this paper will uncover the deeper anxieties present in Unfriended, and how the internet is haunted as much by the character's mistakes as it is by the supernatural, with the character's dying by way of an online performative sacrifice to their friends on a Skype video chat. This paper will demonstrate that Unfriended is a clear example of 21st century horror in transition, by using the horror tradition of the ghost story, but engaging with it by using the modern aesthetic of social media to construct a fear around the insidious potential of social media and the internet as a site of haunting and the haunted.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
EventFear 2000: 21st Century Horror - Sheffield Hallam University
Duration: 1 Apr 20162 Apr 2016


ConferenceFear 2000: 21st Century Horror


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