Author: Becky (page 2 of 22)

Are we always biased towards the future?

This is a weird thought I had this morning. I am currently reading this magazine. I like to dabble in a bit of philosophy from time to time.

My current magazine

There is an article in this magazine about why people are conditioned to always look to the future and hope that better times are ahead. (Isn’t the thought that you’ve lived the best of your life already really rather depressing?) In its discussion, the article cites a thought experiment devised by philosopher Derek Parfit.

Derek and his cat

The scenario runs thus:

You need a life-saving operation. It has a 100% success rate. However, the only way the operation can be carried out is without anaesthetic, so you will feel excruciating pain. You are told that the operation will take ten hours. You are also informed that the doctors are able to wipe your memory of the pain as soon as the operation is over. This seems reasonable to you, after all, it is going to save your life and you won’t remember the pain.

You wake up in a hospital bed and you ask a nurse: ‘Have I had the operation yet?’ The nurse responds with: ‘Either you have had the ten-hour operation and had your memory wiped and you are recovering, or you haven’t had it yet and it is actually now only going to take two hours due to sudden advances in medical science. You will, of course, still feel the pain throughout. We can still erase the memory afterwards though’. She then asks you which would you prefer to the be truth.

So, dear reader, what would you choose?

If you are like the majority of human beings, you will chose the first option. You will prefer to have had the operation, gone through the pain, and be on the other end without the memory of it, rather than be facing two-hours of pain.

However, look at this logically. Why would you chose to go through ten hours of excruciating pain over two hours of excruciating pain. Does that make sense? Well, yes it does, if you accept that humans are naturally future-biased. We see the future as more significant than the past. We consider future happiness, and future pain, as more important to our current existence than past pain or happiness. We can’t bear the thought that we have had our greatest happiness. We are quite happy to accept that we have been through awful pain, yet, thank god, we won’t need to do that again. This happens even if the pain and happiness are equal either side of the present. There is also an argument that humans are incapable of remembering the physical sensation of pain; we remember the emotions the pain gave us, but not the actual sensation of pain (otherwise, why would women go through childbirth not once, twice, or even three times – in my case at least?)

Isn’t that amazing? Yes.

I put this thought experiment to my three children today and they all, as predicted, opted for the ‘ten-hours of pain in the past’ scenario.

Number Two son then piped up with: ‘I guess this means that if you go to Disney Land and have your memory wiped afterwards then it isn’t worth going in the first place.’

My philosophical boys

This lead to a discussion on this question: if you forget a pleasure or a pain, is there a point to having it? We talked about whether it is worth the effort of celebrating the birthday of someone with a severe memory disorder where they don’t remember beyond five minutes in the past. I argued that celebrating the birthday and giving presents and a cake to that person was as worthwhile as doing the same for someone with a working memory. It is the moment of pleasure borne from the experience that is the most important element of the experience, not the memory of it.

In addition, I argued, you will be dead one day and once you are dead you won’t remember Disney Land or every single birthday cake.

So keep going, live for the moment, enjoy the now, experience the pain. And appreciate that just because a great pleasure has past and an equal pleasure might not happen again, that pleasure was wonderful at that time.

I have a favourite mental state

This is my latest weird thought while sat on the toilet (just now).

I’m sure everyone has a favourite mental state. Perhaps other people are at their happiest when they are deeply asleep, or asleep but dreaming, or thinking hard about a problem and coming up with a solution (the joy of that mental state is undeniable), or having rumpy pumpy, or maybe eating their favourite meal, or feeling drunk but not too drunk (happy ‘I love you all’ drunk).

Happy Drunk photos I recently found on my phone

Although those are all good mental states, for me, my favourite mental state is that place between being awake and being asleep. I love that place. I visit that amazing place shortly before I fall asleep, and shortly before I wake up. I’m in that place at least twice a day (four times if I treat myself to an afternoon nap). I suppose everyone visits the same place as me, just not at the same time or in the exact location, otherwise it would be quite crowded there.

My mind is at its most relaxed when I’m  in that place, yet I’m conscious enough to notice it and appreciate it and blog about it here. My imagination starts to play games when in that place. I see unicorns, multi-coloured goats, chocolate cakes, beautiful seas, fluffy kittens and all sorts of other amazing things. Also, ideas come to me when I’m in that state. I love it.

Picasso was a big fan of that place. He would sleep sitting upright with a spoon in his mouth so he could harness ideas that came to him just as he was nodding off (the idea is that the spoon would fall out and wake him up so that he could scribble down his ideas).

Sometimes, as I am waking up, I try to lengthen the time I am in that wondrous place by avoiding the lure of consciousness. The problem with consciousness is that it leads to clarity and the world loses most of it’s amazing colour and shape that it seemed to have in the in between place. The world is still fairly wondrous, just not quite as much, and in consciousness you need to search harder to find that wonder. In the place between sleep and awake, that wondrousness is just there. It cannot be avoided. Sometimes music plays there. But mostly all sorts of creatures lives there, most of them mythical. I might meet people there with whom I spoke during the day, or people to whom I haven’t spoken to for years. It’s always a lovely place though. It is somewhere where tea parties are had, cup cakes are eaten, and somewhere where Alice would feel utterly at home.

Alice lives between consciousness and sleep

I think I might just go now and have a nap. I feel like a cup of tea and a cup cake with a purple goat and a eight-legged stout.


Does introversion make you susceptible to post-natal depression?

This was a weird thought I had in London last week. I can’t remember what sparked it off. I was just travelling on the underground when the thought came to me. Actually, I know what sparked it off. I was reading this book at the time the thought came to me, which is written and illustrated by Marzi Wilson.

My London book

I love this book and the website that came before it. There is so much in it that I relate to. I don’t relate to everything, however. I generally try to resist labels such as ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. We are all individuals, after all. However, if I had to put myself in one camp or the other I’d have to veer towards introversion. And if I am an introvert, then I’m the sort who loves being around people and socializing. The stereotypical introvert doesn’t. I love socializing, on the proviso that I might want to get my sketch pad or book out when with others and be alone in company. So, contrary to the average introvert, I like to be with people, but I like to be alone with people. But generally, I’d say I am an introvert.

But this introverted ‘need to be alone’ whether physically or mentally, or both, brought to mind how impossible that is when you are a new mother. When you have a baby, your life, for at least six months and in actual fact for much longer, is no longer your possession. It becomes the possession of someone else, a child. Many people are able to embrace this change and in fact revel in it. However, three times, I struggled with this. And in London, last week, it occurred to me that my struggle with this stems from my introversion tendencies. I find comfort in the ability to withdraw. When things get too much, I turn into a snail. I retreat. I curl up with a book and forget the world. However, when you have a baby, you cannot do this. You cannot do this for months, or even years. And, this may sound awful to say this, that is very hard for someone who needs solitude. So my question is: are people with introvert tendencies more susceptible to post-natal depression? That great beast of wisdom, the Internet, seems to agree with me. In fact it says ‘they [introverts] get energy and strength from solitude’. So when your source of strength and energy is removed, it is no wonder that anxiety and depression could ensue. This is what happened to me, to different degrees, three times.

Me and Toby when he was about six weeks old.

I found this thought quite liberating. I think that anyone who has suffered from post-natal depression may feel a sense of guilt. I certainly had huge guilt about it. You feel a failure, inadequate and weak for having struggled to deal with something that is natural, or something you see others coping with admirably and with a halo of love around them. I know for me, I felt guilt because I’d dealt with various hardships in my life, including working in stressful environments, yet looking after a fairly low-maintenance being who, let’s face it, acted quite predictably, caused me much anxiety and distress. But this realisation that perhaps my personality just isn’t perfectly suited to early motherhood, helped me feel less guilty. It was actually quite a good weird thought.

After having this thought in London last week while travelling on the underground, I felt lighter, and more human. I love my children with all my heart. And it is much easier now that we can all be introverts together with our noses in our books and our mutual love of doodling.

Toby seven years later, nose in a book.

Why I like to dangle my legs

At the weekend, I went to London. For lunch on the Saturday, I ate at my favourite okonomiyaki restaurant this side of Tokyo. In fact, I don’t know of any other okonomiyaki restaurants in the UK. When I lived in Japan, okonomiyaki was one of my favourite dishes (joint with chilli raamen and perhaps just above tsukune – also known as duck balls).

Okonomiyaki – also known as cabbage omelette – but it is so yummy

The seating in this restaurant was like no other I have come across in the UK. The main dining area is in a square horse shoe shape around the centre. The seats themselves are quite high. They are more like benches than seats as such, They have a lid. On arrival you are asked to place your your coat and bag inside the seat. Then you sit on the lid and, as the seats are quite high and unless you are six feet tall or above, you dangle your feet down.

So when I did this, I felt an odd sense of comfort. I thought weirdly about this. After two minutes of deep contemplation I concluded that this comfort  is a Proustian / Freud uncanny-childhood-memory thing. I reasoned that I liked the sensation of dangling my feet because as a child, my feet always dangled wherever I sat. It was lovely to sit and dangle. I really did feel comforted.

This man again?

The food was pretty lush too.

I want to be a gastrophysicist

Today, I came across this news item on the BBC News website. It’s about a growing field which blends food technology, psychology, neuroscience with physics: gastrophysics.

What a pretty Venn diagramme

What a pretty Venn diagram

If I wasn’t a publishing project managing artist blogger, I’d love to be a gastrophysicist.

My main employer

My main employer

I’ve looked into the physics of food-related things before with the physics of the teapot. I think it is a fascinating area. This particular news article, however, looks specifically at the science of the spoon. It includes an interview with a man, Andreas Fabian, who actually specialises in spoons. He has a PhD in spoons. He has made spoons his life. In his words ‘its probably the first thing we use when we are born, we are fed, and probably the last thing when we die.’ How wonderful to be so passionate about a single object.

A spoon

A spoon

The gastrophysicists don’t just look at spoons though: there’s a whole load of stuff they study: colour, what you should watch when eating, who you should eat with to name but a few.

Perhaps when I come back in another life I’ll pay more attention in physics lessons at school and get into gastrophysics. It seems such fun.

My newest ‘cool thing’ discovery – morphic resonance

I’m reading the most amazing book I have ever read at the moment. It is called The art of looking sideways, written by Alan Fletcher.

My Bible

My Bible

The best way to describe it would be the Bible for artists. It is a huge tome, full of anecdotes, stories, facts, fictions, images, quotes, It is described as a ‘primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination’. That is exactly what it is. It flits from theme to theme. It is like a stream of consciousness but it is hugely inspiring and colourful.

The author describes himself as a ‘visual jackdaw’, which is very apt I think. He collects words, words about stuff.

Every day when I read this  book I discover something new. Yesterday, it was the concept of ‘morphic resonance’.

Morphic resonance on one level appears to describe the psychic abilities of species set apart. So if a flock of birds works out how to crack open a particular seed in Papua New Guinea later today, tomorrow a similar flock of birds in Wolverhampton, psychically connected to the first flock, might appear to make the same discovery.

However, on the more scientific grounding of reality, morphic resonance describes how species arrive at the same conclusion at near enough the same time about something new through as of yet unexplained genetic evolution processes.

The idea behind morphic resonance, coined by Rupert Sheldrake, is that memory is inherent in nature. This means that when a certain shape, structure or behaviour has occurred many times, it is more likely to occur again. This happens not through conventional interaction (such as communication) but through a process of “formative causation” which does not allow for any formal communication amongst species.

Rupert S.

Rupert Sheldrake and his cat

In simpler terms, the theory goes that knowledge can be unconsciously transmitted between minds. If one person or animal discovers something somewhere, it becomes easier for another person or animal to overcome the same issues when faced with the same dilemma.

A good example of how this could happen is with Blaenau Ffestiniog Syndrome. The sheep of this small Welsh settlement have recently learnt how to cross cattle grids by tucking up their legs and rolling over the bars. The farmers of the area where this has happened are concerned that this learned behaviour will transmit to other sheep elsewhere. Maybe it will, if morphic resonance is a sound scientific theory. It hasn’t yet, at least not to my knowledge and I do watch the news regularly.

An intelligent Welsh sheep

An intelligent Welsh sheep

However, this theory isn’t fact. There are many scientists who say it is poppy cock.

I’m a big fan of the teeny, tiny possibility theory of science so I, for one, hope that the theory is true.

What type are you?

This is a weird thought I’ve just had in the bath. When I say ‘type’, I mean ‘type of Facebook user’, by the way in case that isn’t clear.

That addictive social media beast

That addictive social media beast

The problem with having a weird thought in the bath is that I either have to write it in steam somewhere so I don’t forget it, write it in bubbles somewhere so I don’t forget it, or leap out of the bath and find my laptop. Today, I had to opt for the third option. So here I am, wrapped only in a towel, furiously getting my weird thought from head to data with some furious typing.

This woman, like me, has weird thoughts in the bath

This woman, like me, has weird thoughts in the bath

Anyway, back to the weird thought that had me leaping. I was remembering in the bath something my mum said to me the other day. She was talking about a Facebook post of mine where I had said somewhere in the comments ‘I hope my mum isn’t reading this’. She informed me that, yes, she did read it and yes, she was amused / shocked by my referring to Donald Trump as a giant flaccid willy (and, yes, I have no doubt my mother will be reading these words too as she tells me she reads all of my blogs – hello mum!).

So initially I was surprised she’d read my comment as it was quite hidden amongst comments to a status update and also, she is, or she appears to be, hardly ever on Facebook. I was wrong. She’s what is known as – a lurker (see below)!

My weird thought then is: there are a number of types of Facebook users and these are truths so there is no good trying to convince me otherwise, or presenting me with alternative facts. Actually, most people are unique (most, that is, I stress) and do not fit to stereotype at all. That is how it should be. Be different. So take this weird thought in the spirit of jest it is intended.

The Constant Life Is Amazing Poster 

Also known as, the narcissist. This person is very happy with themselves. Good for them. I’m happy for them too. They often have the most friends (3,000 at least) and just love life. I hope they really do. They also think they look AMAZING. Indeed, they do. Lucky pigs!

The Constant Life is Amazing (or is it?) Poster 

Also known as the pseudo-narcissist. This is the person who posts lots of selfies as above, and also uplifting ‘life is ace, look at me, I’ve lost weight’ posts and ‘I look amazing now I’m single’ posts. However, the truth is, this person is deeply troubled and has been harshly burnt by someone they loved. They want their ex-partner to see their posts, or friends of their ex-partner to see their posts, and feel regret that they let them go. I worry about this person. I want to hug them. I want to say ‘don’t keep doing it’ to them.

The Bitter / Life’s a Bitch

This person is one step beyond the above. They are very, very bitter about life. They have been deeply hurt and it is taking years to move forward and every bad thing that happens to them means that life-is-out-to-get-them. It might be, I’m not sure. I worry even more about this person. They need a real hug and / or counselling. They aren’t getting the help they need.

The Perfect Parent

This is the person who only posts cute family photos (usually on the beach or getting at one with nature), adverts for organic baby food, share if you love your son / daughter or share if you’d put your son / daughter before yourself in a towering inferno type scenario. They aspire to be the perfect parent. Little do they know that not everyone is perfect and it is normal to have crap baby-sick-in-hair days.

The ‘I am angry about Brexit / Trump’ Political Activist

I admit freely I do fall into this category. If there is a Venn diagram, I overlap this category. I have had some very, very heated debates on Facebook about Brexit (not so much Trump, I think I used up too much energy about Brexit). I’ve lost friends over it. This Facebook user is very angry and they want to change people’s views. Little do they realise that those people whose views they want to change won’t see their posts thanks to the logarithms at play in Facebook that means that you only see what you already agree with.

This man makes me angry on Facebook

This man makes me angry on Facebook

The Emotional / Suggestive

This person posts things such as ‘Life’s a bitch, I hate the world’. Someone responds with ‘What’s up?’ and they will reply ‘PM me’. This, I find quite annoying, because being the nosy person I am, I need to know what they are upset about but I don’t want to go to the length of private messaging them to find out, especially if I don’t know them that well.

The Liker

This person scrolls through their phone every hour or so and likes everything. I have one liker. You know who you are if you are reading this, although I must admit you’ve stopped liking so much recently. Perhaps you don’t like me so much.

The Post Everything

This is me, I have to confess. I do use Facebook a lot to tell the world about my dinner, my day, my art, my children’s eccentricities, my own eccentricities. I share articles and quotes. I am a Post Everything Facebook user (with an overlap into Political Activist – see above). I’m the most annoying type (and I have been told so on numerous occasions). I’m not sure what the psychological reason for being this type of Facebook user is. I think these people just want to be liked.

The Lurker

This is my mum. This person rarely post anything. Yet they read EVERYTHING. These are the ones you need to watch out for. Remember that the lurkers will see your comments about Trump being a large flaccid willy so think, next time, before you post (note to self).

We live in language

The one good thing about having to drive to Wolverhampton and back instead of taking the train is that I get to listen to Radio 4. I love Radio 4. I grew up listening to Radio 4. Radio 4 is my comfort blanket. I was put to sleep with Radio 4.

But despite its soporific effects on me, Radio 4 is great for encouraging thinking. In the mornings on my way to Wolverhampton, I get to hear all sorts of interesting stuff about science, politics, philosophy and current debate. In the evenings, I generally get to catch up on the news. The mornings are the best.

This morning Melvin Bragg kept me company as I sailed down the M54 talking to a random woman about Hannah Arendt. I knew very little about Hannah Arendt before today. I had heard of her. I was aware that she was a writer and political theorist / philosopher but that is as far as my knowledge of her went. I now know a lot more about her thanks to Radio 4 and that is Not A Bad Thing.

Hannah Arendt was actually a very influential political philosopher. She was born in Germany but fled to Paris in 1933 and then emigrated to the US eight years later. She became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York (lucky cow, she was). She wrote a number of relatively well-known philosophy books but also lots of essays. She was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy but she was also a fan of Heidegger, and more than a fan at times too. I am also a bit of a Heidegger fan for some of his thoughts on ‘stuff’ and philosophy as I am a little bit obsessed with ‘stuff’.

Hannah Arendt with her cat

Hannah Arendt with her cat

One thing that was mentioned on the radio today though that struck me as particularly interesting about Hannah Arendt is that she argued that ‘we live in language’. She was very interested in the internal dialogue that we have in our heads when we are thinking, as were the Greeks. I like this idea. I agree; we do ‘live in language’. Language is all we have in our heads. It is what keeps us awake. It is what stops us from sleeping. It forms our dreams so it is still there as we sleep. Equally, as well as internal to us, language is everywhere around us: whether it be a visual language or a spoken / written language.

Language is also so much about interpretation. We read something, someone says something to us, we say something to someone, there will be an interpretation of that spoken or written communication which may or may not match the intent. Language is omnipresent. We cannot escape it. It informs our emotions, our reactions, our beliefs and our culture. If we’re not reading it, listening to it, speaking it or writing it, we are thinking it. What it must be like to live without language? But I would argue that if there is no language, the mind creates a form of language that does not use words, images or gestures. Language just evolves from whatever resources there are. Perhaps that might be sound, touch or raw emotion.

Philosophy has a lot to say about thinking and how we think, what we use to think and language. So this is a topic that I could think, talk and write about for hours. But I won’t.

I’m going to think about lunch instead.

‘Contentment is nature’s Prozac.’ Discuss.

I’ve just finished reading this book.

How To Be Normal, by Guy Browning

How To Be Normal, by Guy Browning

I was conned into buying it by a nice lady in a nice bookshop. I won’t name and shame but every time I visit her bookshop she persuades me to buy a book (or two). Often, she is right, and I’ve picked up some real gems thanks to her sales technique (‘I think you’d like this’). For example, this one below. My youngest son loves this book. It is about a bunch of weasels who decide to try to take over the world. They are thwarted in their efforts by a unplugged plug. They are also much distracted by their love of coffee. It’s great.

A book about weasels taking over the world.

A book about weasels taking over the world.

She also told me that I’d love this book (and indeed, I do). This looks like a children’s book, which it is on one level, but it is also a profound post-structuralist, philosophical examination on the nature of objects. It is about semantics, signs, and the power of the human imagination. The use of the apple as the object to question is no accident. I think I could write a whole blog on this book so I’ll leave it there.

It Might Be An Apple by Shinsuke Yoshitake

It Might Be An Apple by Shinsuke Yoshitake

However, on the occasion of my purchasing How To Be Normal, until I got to the last few chapters, I had concluded that she was wrong to persuade me to buy it because ‘you’ll like this’. It is a humourous book so will have mass appeal, but I found it quite irritating. I’m not sure what I was expecting. But it didn’t seem to be offering any great insights on how to be normal. It didn’t delve into the question of normality in any great depth or breadth. Perhaps I should have enjoyed it for what it was: a tongue-in-cheek examination of human nature. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously. I think it was telling me to take a chill pill. I’m not good at taking the chill pill.

I NEED some of these

I NEED some of these

So, as I have said, I read most of the book with an air of slight disdain, pompously puffing out my cheeks as I turned the pages and kept reading. That is, until I came across the chapter on contentment, which stars with the sentence ‘Contentment is nature’s Prozac.’ This made me unpuff my cheeks and sit up and silently exclaim ‘Yes!’

I have always envied the content of this world. They live on an attractive level plain. They travel the same path of life’s ups and downs as the rest of us do, but they seem able to batter down the ups and gently push up the downs and carry on their merry way. They neither get overwhelmed nor underwhelmed. They just are. They accept. They cope. Most importantly, they are happy. Or if they aren’t happy, they reason that it is normal to be unhappy sometimes and this makes them feel content. They know that they will be happy again soon.

I am not one of the content of this world. I rarely feel that warm, snuggly sensation: contentment. I can feel extreme joy, excitement, pleasure one moment but then find myself in the depths of the well of despair the next. Christmas thrills me. January pulls me down. Presents excite me. Making mistakes at works renders me drafting my resignation letter in my head. Snow falling has me in love with the world. An argument starts and I’m losing a good friend before we’ve even finished the first sentence of the argument. It can be exhausting. Perhaps it burns more calories to be like this (therein lies another blog entry). But there are many times when I dream of being one of life’s contented people.

So back to the original question: Is contentment nature’s Prozac? Having tried Prozac (and hating it) I believe that this might actually be true. Do the content need Prozac (or any other equally as effective anti-depressant medication)? I’d have to do a survey of 100 contented people. But, equally, you can’t fake contentment.

I live on one of these, really, I do

I live on one of these, really, I do

So as a emotional rollercoaster kind of person, I have only one choice – accept that instability and use it to positive effect, both the ups and the downs – as inspiration for my art and for my blog writing.

The world is one big shadow

I’ve recently been reading a lot about the idea of the simulacrum for my art degree research. Don’t stop reading. I’ll explain.

The simulacrum (in Latin: likeness, similarity) is defined on the Internet as:

  • an image or representation of someone or something
  • an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute

This definition implies a negative notion. Traditionally, in the West at least, the simulacrum is seen in a very derogatory way. It still is. However, it was the likes of thinkers such as Nietzsche and Baudrillard who studied the idea in more depth. Deleuze, of course, went a step further and decided it was A Good Thing. But this blog will look at the negative aspects only and how they relate to our current version of reality.

Jean Baudrillard with his very small cat

Jean Baudrillard with his very small cat

Plato’s allegory of the cave is perhaps the most famous example of simulacra: people here were chained up in a cave for their entire lives and only saw shadows of real objects, believing that the shadows were reality. Only the shadow of things existed for these prisoners in the cave. That was their reality. This is a simulacrum: fake reality which often seems more real than the actual reality. Since Plato roamed the earth, philosophers had been trying to move away from this simulacrum, to become the one prisoner who leaves the cave and discovers reality.

Those poor prisoners, thinking Big Brother is reality

Those poor prisoners, thinking Big Brother is reality

Before Jean Baudrillard came along, everyone believed that the simulacrum was entirely two-dimensional and only one aspect of reality. Baudrillard argued, however, that the simulacrum was inescapable and a integral to our current reality. The simulacra were as real as reality, he believed.

I think this is quite forward thinking for his time (1980s). He said all this before the days of social media and reality TV. To Baudrillard, simulacra stopped being projections of reality, they became a separate body of symbols which exist irrespective of reality. These symbols, or shadows to use Plato’s term, became more important than the objects casting them. We covert objects and status not for what they are, but for what they say. We own that particular pair of shoes because of what they say about who we are.

Baudrillard argued that we could no longer describe what was good in objective terms. We could only describe goodness relative to what is bad. This is most evident in the politics of the last 30 years: you know who I am talking about I am sure but I would argue that the likes of Thatcher and George Bush started this trend.

Next we should consider the hyperreal. This is the generation of the simulation of the real – more a copy than an emulation. Science fiction loves this idea. Think Inception, The Matrix and The Truman Show as three examples. There are many other examples in literature too. Have you ever dreamt of electronic sheep? Did you burn your books at 451 degrees Fahrenheit? That is, assuming you are an android or a fireman – a shadow, or simulacrum, of a ‘normal’ human.

Reality TV, which some would argue is now on the wain, gave the next wave of simulacrum. In the early 2000s, we lapped up reality TV as if we were desperate for an escape from the real. Reality TV was created to imitate and parody life. However, it became a hyper-dramatized version of reality. We refused to see it thus. It became, in our view, a mirror of society. It became a mirror of a society we wanted to belong to.

I would argue that we are currently in a new stage: a stage of accepting that reality TV is a complete farce. We don’t readily admit to enjoying reality TV. However, in it we fail to see that our current  constructed reality is similarly a farce. As social media got its paws on our lives, we started to imitate reality TV through social media: the drama, the humour, the selfies. Take a look at Facebook now and look at the statuses that you flick through with your finger. How much of that is a mask of people’s reality and how much of that is genuine? How much is a projection, or a ‘shadow’ (Plato stands grinning).

Fast forward to the year 2017. It could be argued that reality has now almost completely lost its substance. Donald Trump is the human embodiment of that (yes, him again). Think Donald Trump and add Twitter, think #alternativefacts and add post-truth (one of the newest entries into the Oxford English Dictionary). Where has reality gone?

The mass media has become the frame through which we see what we think of as reality. But it isn’t reality. Simulating is not longer faking. It is what we think of as existing. But we are faking it as much as they are. We are all faking it.

Social media has now become all encompassing in our lives and has even further accentuated the trend. Many of us, most of us in fact, live behind the facade of our social media masks. We have a ‘self’ online that is not our true self. Our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram self is a virtual version of Plato’s shadow.

The lovely Facebook

The lovely Facebook

Do we even know what our real self is now, I wonder? Will we ever get it back?

Perhaps we should just accept the current ‘reality’ for what it is and not mourn the old reality. The future will change things whether we like it or not.



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