Social media, the foregrounding of the self, and the foreclosure of political struggle

Today’s generation is one that cannot be separated from the online world. This interconnectivity manifests itself primarily through social media, which has become a staple in the daily routine of most people and where, with a click of a button, users are afforded the ability to craft online profiles and relationships with each other.

As a venue for presenting one’s “self” to the world and interacting with similarly-fashioned personas, sites such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed people to create online extensions of themselves and their social interactions.

As underscored by our video, it is, however, necessary to question what kind of connections we have been able to make using these means and to what extent these online representations reflect the physical reality, and ultimately, understand the fantasies animating these and how they, in turn, foreclose the self from the political (Dean, p. 51).

Despite the belief that social media allows users social interactions through a more convenient medium, the online world tends to be a crafted and controlled reflection of physical reality. What people post on their newsfeeds and walls are not necessarily accurate representations of themselves or their lives, but are instead selected snippets which conform to their desired image.

In this case, online profiles become a foreground presented to the rest of the world—a collection of the best parts of yourself to project the best you to others, a façade posing as an accurate summary of the person, but in reality being a filtered and more ideal version of him or her: “take the Friday nights / we spend curled up in bed alone / and plaster our party tweets / all over our sheets / so three in the morning / doesn't feel as cold.”

This selective foregrounding then conceals the unpleasant and projects the person only through things which are harmonious with their desired image—no conflict, no problems, no difficulties present in the physical reality: “and we piece them together / on pages and pages / so the people that we say / know us / know us for the faces we've made.”

Another attribute of social media is its function as a spectacle which, in part, is facilitated by the imaginary relationships and instant gratification it offers, products which we periodically consume and crave without gaining anything more than temporary satisfaction. We, however, continue to buy into it because of the allure of imagined relationships and instant gratification it offers us. Due to the promise of interconnectivity with a click, Facebook and Twitter are perceived as modes of connection by people hungry for the instant intimacy formed through these online interactions. We are inducted into an imagined community, the voluntary exclusion from which is universally met with puzzlement.

Related to social media’s deficiency in accurately mirroring reality is the fact that all choices in social media are overdetermined and interpellated. Although online sites give users the ability to control content, these choices are still overdetermined due to the restricted amount of actions which may be done in different platforms. While we are given the “freedom” to create better versions of ourselves, these versions remain subject to the limitations imposed by the nature of these sites. Twitter, for example, lets you share your thoughts, but only within its 140 characters while Facebook allows you to display your life to others, but only in forms of pictures, likes or statuses. This then limits even perhaps the context in which certain tweets and posts should be understood.

Interpellation in the form of self-regulation in the online world also limits what users post online. Aside from the active selection of what one chooses to post on his or her profile, the online venue of social media also affects its users’ actions. When entering the online sphere, people subject themselves to the implied ethics of online interaction and therefore act more or less accordingly.

This interpellation results in a corresponding self-containment in which people willingly subject themselves to the rules without the need for coercion. A person, for example, will not post or voice out certain statuses which may get the ire of others due to the fact that Facebook is not the venue for such discourse.  Otherwise, if there is a particular issue at hand in the physical space making its way through the online world, we adjust our online behaviour accordingly.

Such is the fantasy of participation as discussed by Dean (p. 61), wherein we are disillusioned into thinking that our inputs into the communicative process taking place online is equivalent to that which takes place on the ground. Take for example: “take our synthetic sympathies /and pretend the strangers / we say they're for / will be stronger / for all our ineffectual gushing,” as is evidenced by our joining calls for solidarity with those in need without taking concrete action to support our hollow words.

While there have been, of course, successful movements brought forth by the online community, the tangible political impact of social media remains ambiguous at best. For one, the high saturation of the communicative process has rendered most of the world’s more significant inputs ineffective, desensitizing its audience and bringing them down to about the same communicative value as that of random musings and exhortations. In our efforts to bridge communication gaps, we may have only distanced further that which is meaningful from its recipients.

This is the challenge posed by the global communication system as manifested by the social media, which, while providing tools and terrains not only the for the political but also down to the individual struggle, make politicization more difficult--and more necessary--than ever (Dean, p. 71). There is a need to draw the fine line between taking pleasure from the medium and taking pleasure in being a projected virtual version of ourselves with empty, meaningless sentiments. As future media practitioners, therefore, we must strive to spark change through content that stand in the service in service of the people, for something beyond themselves. #

 

Lingao, Amanda

Marcelo, Christian Ver

Palima, Hannah

San Pedro, Aira

Subingsubing, Krixia

 

 

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