|TekTek||Intro | Story | Filmmaker | Cast | Reactions ||
TekTek is the result of Rich Samuels' extensive exploration into the quirky, sometimes dark world of Internet chatrooms, and the peculiar society it encourages.
Written and Directed by Samuels, TekTek is the story of Mark (Josh Morgan), a 13 year-old boy addicted to the Internet, and especially text-based on-line "chatting." Taking the online nickname of TekTek, he's up half the night - or longer - chatting with his many on-line friends. In the morning, his mother finds him asleep at the computer. He doesn't have any friends in the 'real' world - they're all online. His mother's efforts to encourage him to make 'real' friends meets with hostility: to him, she just doesn't understand. He considers his online friends every bit as real and important as the in-person variety. His obsession grows as he develops an intense relationship with an on-line girlfriend.
TekTek, though, is in for a shocking dose of reality as he discovers that his chat friends - including his on-line girlfriend - aren't who they say they are.
Samuels spent close to a year preparing to write TekTek, exploring internet chat rooms and becoming part of the online communities that attract tens of thousands of men, women and children around the world. He took on the persona of his main character, and soon became the target of cunning on-line predators. For example, he describes, "You'll have a lonely kid, thirteen or fourteen years old, with personal problems he doesn't feel he can talk to anyone about in his regular life. So, he discovers on-line chatting. On the 'net, nobody knows who he is. It feels "safer" to reveal himself. But, he's vulnerable. He talks about his problems online, and suddenly he finds someone who says he understands. Someone, maybe, who's the same age, and has the same problems. They'll talk at length for days, weeks, even months, building trust and sharing ever more personal confidences. They e-mail scanned photos of each other. It seems like a real, tangible friendship. At some future time, when his friend wants to meet, it seems the most natural thing in the world."
Though TekTek is a work of fiction, it's a peek at the very real perils of a growing Internet sub-culture. At it's best, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or its various cousins on the commercial services, allows for individuals to experience a form of social and sometimes professional interaction with total strangers. Like-minded people who might never have met otherwise can form lasting friendships across national and international boundaries. On-line chat, however, allows the Individual to create a nearly undetectable alter ego: age, sex, or personality can be radically changed.
While Samuels understands the excitement and fascination on-line chatting holds for young cyber-surfers, he feels that many arrive in "cyberspace" unprepared. Recent news reports nationwide have shown repeatedly that on-line friendships may prove perilous or even life-threatening when extended to the "real world." He encourages a healthy skepticism when socializing online.
"My hope is that TekTek serves as a warning, both to teens and their parents, to be more aware of the nature of on-line communication," says Samuels. "What happens to 'TekTek' happens everyday to thousands of kids - and adults. It's not easy to admit to yourself that someone you may chat with online for hours and days on end may not exist except in someone's imagination - but the possibility is always there."