The Skin Deep: Redefining human interactions in the digital age

The Skin Deep, a platform that focuses entirely on human connections, aims to bring us closer through conversations.

by Aisiri Amin

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© The Skin Deep

When was the last time you sat across someone and had a conversation; a long uninterrupted conversation? I bet it will take you some time to answer that. In the chaos of our ever-changing lives, we often take our relationships for granted and by the time we realise it, it’s almost always too late.

Founded by award-winning writer, director and storyteller Topaz Adizes,  The Skin Deep is bringing the focus back to the beauty of everyday interactions in the digital age. There is a constant complaint which we often hear about technology; how it has distanced us from each other by reducing our conversations to emoticons and hashtags and statuses.

Ironically, Adizes, with his project, is using technology to bring people closer. In his blog post, Adizes explains, “What we are doing here at The Skin Deep is creating experiences that reflect and examine these changes. Focused entirely on human connection in the digital age, these experiences make you rethink how you connect with yourself and others.”

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Topaz Adizes, founder of The Skin Deep. ©The Skin Deep/Facebook

One of their most successful projects {THE AND} is an interactive documentary which in 2015 won an Emmy for New Approaches to Documentary and the World Press Photo award for Best Interactive Documentary.  Co-directed by Topaz Adizes and Nathan Phillips and made in collaboration with Noise, the film features 30 couples and 412 probing questions, each unravelling a new facet of their relationship.

An interactive documentary film has a very unique style of storytelling, wherein to an extent, you get to choose what you want to watch. When you visit the film’s website, you are asked four questions such as ‘What do you like to do about the past?’. Based on your answers, a short clip from the film plays for you. After which you can go ahead and choose from various other options.

The idea is simple. Two people sit facing each other with a table in between. There are some cards on the table and each of them, alternatively, pick a card to read the question written on it aloud.

From talking about re-defining love within a polyamorous relationship to the importance of money, religion and sexuality, the wide array of questions aim to bring forth the deepest desires, insecurities, apprehensions and expectations to the surface.

The two people sitting across each other could be a parent and child, siblings, friends, married couples, a couple in their early stages of dating or those who have broken up, or complete strangers on a blind date, basically anyone.

One of most emotionally uplifting conversations has to be the one between Khalil and Mia, a father and his 9-year-old daughter who were separated for years. Khalil was in prison for a few years, hence, he was absent from Mia’s life for a long time. The distance between them is evident but so is the love. With every question we watch them open up a little bit more, take one step towards each other.

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The set of questions are unique to every couple. © The Skin Deep/ Facebook

During the conversation, Khalil vocalises one of the biggest fears that most parents face, especially those who stay apart from their children: “What scares me the most is that I will look back on my life and feel that I wasn’t a good parent.” To which the daughter gives him the much-needed reassuring, “There’s nothing to add to you being a better parent, you’re actually a great parent.” As you see relief flooding Khalil, you feel that he desperately wants to believe that because sometimes you need just a few words to heal you, to help you get up and move on.

Another conversation that became viral and gained about 16 million views was between exes Ali and Andrew who dated for 7 years. Their honest, warm conversation breaks the negative stereotypes associated with exes. For instance, when asked what she would change about their relationship, Ali relies with a no.

“We grew up together, you know? I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and we wouldn’t have the relationship that we do now if it were any different,” she says. A different perspective, a positive one comes out of their talk.

The Skin Deep is changing the way we communicate, making us dig a little deeper, answer the question that we are afraid to ask, attempting to bring us closer to each other and to ourselves because more often than not, all it takes is a conversation.

Some of the conversations are relevant today more than ever. For instance, the interaction between two friends and recent graduates, Francesca and Azzah highlights what it is like to live in the US after Trump  won the elections. Azzah talks about how her identity as Muslim immigrant is a matter of concern and Francesca who deeply cares about Azzah confesses that she feels scared for her.

Azzah says, “Being a person of colour,  within an institution, it’s sometimes hard and being a female, it’s harder… People always think why are you bringing race into everything or that this is isn’t sexist but they completely ignore our struggles.”

Talking about her faith, Azzah says, “What I struggle with is that I am so understanding with what others believe in but it is so hard for people to be okay with` what I believe in.” To which Francesca says, “We live in a crazy world right now.”

The Skin Deep is coming up with a new interactive series The Dig and Honest X. Keep a lookout for them!

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