Lost Memories and Found Imagery of Self

So, the kids are doing something popular in secret from their parents in order to relieve pain, and they can’t seem to be able to stop it. Are we talking about doing drugs? Taken out of context, that’s exactly what it sounds like. I immediately thought of that analogy during our class discussion about secret instagram sites but I did not wish to bring it up because it does sound too concerning (and possibly extreme for some people). Still, when we think about the behavior of a lot of these “kids” acting as if they are addicted and unable find solace in anything else, it’s difficult not to draw the comparison. Before you get all angry and start sending me hate-mails, I should reiterate. I’m mainly concerned about the younger group of people who do not grasp the inevitable consequences of their actions down the road. If you’re an adult and responsible, you do not have to worry, but for a lot of young people, it seems like the line between the real world and the digital world has become extremely blurry.

We are at the point of realization that using social media is more than mere interaction. People are not only communicating but also depositing their memories into the digital bank of online world, and it comes with certain drawbacks. People used to be able to simply lie and get away with it. I’m not only talking about the evil deeds of evil doers but also the people who did “stupid things” or mistakes and simply wish to erase it from their (and others’) memories in order to find peace. “He’s totally making it up… That did not happen!” or “Don’t believe her! I said no such thing…” are the type of answers that have no power online. It’s impossible to rely on them as every step taken is being recorded. Others can simply trace your thoughts online and point to the things you had said. Even if you try to delete those footsteps, the data lives on forever. We see many famous people on the news losing their careers based on what they had said online years ago. That is not something only exclusive to famous people; a lot of “ordinary” people suffer from the same exercise. I guess the good news here is that people are picking up some good hunting skills. If we ever revert back to the Dark Ages, perhaps we can thank the social media for preparing us for the apocalypse…

I noticed that people were quoting stuff from the livestream conducted in our last class, such as this one: “If we don’t want to be exploited, we stop participating. If we stop participating… is that the society we want to live in?”. It’s a captivating quote, for sure. However, I do not subscribe to the notion that “internet is no longer luxury but necessity now”. It’s only a necessity because we make it so in the name of convenience. For me, the digital world will always remain as a luxury. There are so many other things in real life to participate in, whether joining an art class or going on tours —or, I don’t know, simply having a conversation with someone on the road, that could offer a more tangible experience than what you can find on the internet. Regardless of age, people in general are slowly forgetting “the good ol’days” before we were hooked into that digital stream. I see the internet as the black monolith from 2001:Space Odysess. Something that looks, and possibly “feels”, extraordinary but secretly dangerous, and we also do not understand how it really works. As alchemists, I wonder, are we trying to figure out a chemical solution to dissolve that monolith and reshape it? If, so… I’d like to suggest a shape of pyramid as the next iteration because it’d look so much “cooler”.

Speaking of being “cool”, I’d also like to mention the main topic of our last class: selfies —is that the best transition, or what? It was nice to hear everyone’s voice in the class reading the article (from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman). I felt like being back in high school, which is appropriate, I suppose, since I keep talking about the younger group of people on my blog posts. Someone had asked if there was another hidden meaning behind the term selfie, besides what we all already know of it. I’d like to think, yes, there is. My personal (and figurative) definition would be: A selfie is what we wish to be; the recreation of the image in our heads reflected on a digital wall. As people, we tend to present ourselves and behave in certain ways when we are in public places, or even when interacting with other individuals in non-public settings. According to Goffman, the reasoning behind that is the belief that only an “individual who possesses certain social characteristics has a moral right to expect that others will value and treat him in a correspondingly appropriate way”. So, people behave “accordingly” in order to achieve that moral right. The digital world adds another layer to it. Since people do not really “see” you on the internet, you can become whatever you wish to be; simply type assertive things on social media and accompany them with a selfie that makes you look confident, and voilà! You become an instant envy. Then, you don’t have to utilize a constant charade to achieve that moral right, it’ll be simply handed out to you —then again, does anyone need a moral right on social media?

If the selfie is indeed what we wish to be, then it’d be fitting to consider the filters as “the demands of society”. The society, as a whole, has certain expectations from individuals in terms of how they’re supposed to look or present themselves. I guess, if you do not necessarily fit into that pre-conceived image, you can just adjust the filter on your phone and become “perfect” —and get them likes for social approval. It should be also noted that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking selfies. Most people simply take selfies to capture special moments in their lives. The problem (for me) lies more with the psychology of it for certain (age-ranged) people; taking a selfie in front of the bathroom mirror is not a requirement for self-worth. Nor does it change who you really are in real life. I just hope that people, especially the young generation, do not develop a need for that social approval in order to feel “normal”. You can have fun with selfies, as long as you don’t let them become anything other than who you really are.