Tag: Twitter

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.



Why do I feel rude if I shut down without logging out?

Yesterday, my husband expressed mild amusement as I logged out of Twitter. He expressed further amusement as I subsequently logged out of all the other applications open on my computer late in the evening (AceProject, CodeMantra, Mantis and WordPress in case you were interested). I questioned his amusement of course, as anyone would.  He responded with something along the lines of: ‘Nobody else logs out of Twitter’. I was quite surprised by this. ‘You are the only person I know who logs out of WordPress’ he added.

The lovely AceProject

The lovely AceProject

I paused for thought. I always log out of Twitter. And I always log out of WordPress. Somehow, to me, it feels rude not to. It is akin to putting the phone down without saying ‘goodbye’, or closing the door in someone’s face, or going to sleep without saying good night.

My weird thought is: am I alone in this strange behaviour? Twitter doesn’t care if I don’t log out.  Twitter does not have feelings. It doesn’t get the hump. It doesn’t sulk. It doesn’t make a mental note of the times I have accidentally shut it down without logging out plotting some sort of twisted, online revenge for later (I’m not sure what this twisted, online revenge would consist of  – taking away one of my many – 60 – followers?). It doesn’t even crash or stop working. Nothing happens. There are no consequences of not logging out.

Is this misplaced sense of good behaviour a result of my age? I was born before the ‘computer age’ in the 1970s. Do people who have grown up in this digital age feel the same need for a sense of closure from closing down or logging out? I will have to ask them.

If only computers looked like this today

If only computers looked like this today

What is it that makes me want to share EVERYTHING about a great experience on Facebook?

This is a weird thought I had on Sunday night after posting the following to Facebook:

I know I’ve been a bit in your face these last two days but please indulge me for a few more hours. I’ll be quiet probs from 10am tomorrow for about a week. I hope I haven’t annoyed you all too much… If so sorry

That addictive social media beast

That addictive social media beast

Over a period of 48 hours on my recent trip to New York I posted a total of 72 times to Facebook (only twice to Twitter) with comments, check-ins and photographs. This count begins from the point of setting off from our house and ends upon arriving back at the same house. This count doesn’t include comments and replies to posts. I can’t imagine what number that comes to.

An outsider may question whether I actually saw anything of New York since my face and fingers was almost permanently attached to my phone. Why wasn’t I able to enjoy my experience without feeling the need to share with everybody?

I’ve been questioning my motives since Sunday. Was I just boasting? ‘I’m in New York and you are not!’ I don’t think that is it. I hope not, at least. Was I bored? No, certainly not. I had a brilliant time. Am I addicted to social media? Perhaps a little, but that’s not enough of an explanation since today I’ve only posted twice to Facebook. I think the real answer lies in the artist in me who just wants to share great things. I see something amazing,  ordinary, or extra-ordinary and I want to share the joy I feel at seeing those things with everyone I know. Social media allows me to do that in an instant. I get a kick out of seeing a blue sky over the New York skyline. I feel joy at drinking a very potent Cosmopolitan at the end of a night. I feel happiness at wandering around China Town. So I want to give some of that feeling to the people I care about. I know I’m not the only person who feels this urge to spread the joy. There are a few of us out there.

New York cocktails - a must share with friends

New York cocktails – a must share with friends

However, perhaps I need to consider the fact that not everyone wants to have a piece of my astonishment at the weird and wacky world we live in thrust upon them. But I’m not sure I am able to stop. My virtual friends, as I’ve expressed before, are as valuable to me as my real ones so I do want them to be with me in some small way when I have great life experiences.

I think that I also get something in return from sharing. I’m sharing because I am selfish. I get joy and release from the act of sharing on social media. There has been some research into the ‘oversharing’ on social media phenomenon. It functions in a similar way to therapy. One of the great things about therapy is that you can let spew your thoughts, anxieties, and issues without judgement and immediate response. Facebook is a bit like therapy. Generally, there is no response and if there is a response at all, it isn’t immediate. By which point the oversharer has had the boost to their happy hormones that they so badly desire.

I think that oversharing is also is like looking in the mirror, which we do for confirmation of the inner perception of the self. By sharing something of the self that might in the real world be keep concealed, the oversharer is seeking reassurance.

It is also argued that the oversharer is desiring a level of celebrity. I am certain that I fit into that category. I’m not sure that is a good thing to admit. It seems shallow. But if I didn’t want celebrity I wouldn’t be writing now in an online forum, I’d be writing it in a little notebook kept locked under my bed.

These people want fame - who are they?

These people want fame – who are they?

So I apologise dear virtual friends, but the oversharing will most likely continue. You are my therapist and you make me feel good.


Am I a better virtual friend than a real one?

This thought was provoked by reading this article in the Guardian today. Here, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett argues that social media such as Facebook and Twitter sucks away at time for many people. She feels she is ‘trapped’ by social media because without it, she’d lose contact with many of her friends who exist mostly, and in some cases exclusively, in these forums. What she objects to is the dross of wedding and birthday photos, dinners, breakfasts and trivia that she has to wade through to get to the meaningful stuff. She seems to be suffering from social media fatigue, she says, and she feels that she is not alone. However, she states, she can’t give it up entirely.

In some ways I relate to much of what she says. I also spend more time than I’d like (when time is extremely precious to me) scrolling and clicking and reading on my phone or my laptop. I wake up every morning and spend 15 minutes catching up and clicking. I click and read. That reading leads to more clicking and reading. I post and repost. This all takes time. However, if it wasn’t for Facebook I wouldn’t have come across this article in the Guardian in the first place. I wouldn’t have spent 7 minutes reading it. And I wouldn’t be spending time now writing about it. So Facebook has sucked time from my day today but it has provoked a thought out of me, so that is a positive.

My friends do need to know when I am passing my favourite roundabout and the only way I can tell them is on Facebook

My friends need to know when I am passing my favourite roundabout and the only way I can tell them is on Facebook

My friend who gave up Facebook a while ago is still Facebook-free and shines with health and vitality. Although I admire her discipline and strength, I couldn’t do it. Just as I couldn’t give up cheese and red wine, or  chocolate. And, in fact, I don’t want to give up these things. After recently reading this book I considered again giving up Facebook. But I just can’t and I don’t want to. I wrote here not so long ago about how Facebook reminds me of the social life of university. But there is more to my love of Facebook than that.

Thought provoking about social media - but not enough to give it up and live in a hut

Thought provoking about social media – but not enough to give it up and live in a shed

This blog isn’t about the time suckage of Facebook though, it’s about the friendships I have on there and how those friendships differ to those I have with real, solid people I see in the real world. I have frequently come across the argument in the real world that virtual relationships and virtual friendships (albeit with real people) are not as meaningful and profound as real face-to-face ones in the real world. I disagree and I might make myself unpopular by saying this. I would even argue that for me at least, I find it much easier to relate and converse with people online than I do in real life. I find social situations quite a challenge, especially one-to-one situations (I really struggle with those – give me two other people and I’m fine but just one other, that’s hard). I am far more interesting online than I am in real life. In the flesh I can be really quite boring and not a great conversationalist. I feel great pressure to be witty and interesting.

Aghhh run away!

Aghhh run away!

I find being witty through my fingers much easier than through my mouth (please, no comments, let me indulge myself). So my argument is: virtual friendships can be as deep (if not deeper) than real ones for socially-awkward people such as me. I do have lovely real friends and I value their friendship very much. But I value the friendship of my Facebook friends just as much (many of course, exist in both worlds).

Facebook is a place for sharing your dinner photos

Facebook is a place for sharing your dinner photos

Facebook has done many marvelous things for me. It has got me back in touch with many long-lost friends from school and university and I have and continue to enjoy the lively, engaging conversations I have with them online. I have enjoyed seeing how their lives have turned out, seeing photos of their partners, children, cats, dogs, and even their dinners. Before Facebook, as I went through life I gathered friends and those friends, as a result of the natural turn of life, gradually faded from my sphere of activity as we moved on in our individual lives. That is natural. However, Facebook has brought many of these friends back to me like shiny, happy boomerangs. They have come back into focus and this I treasure.

Facebook also allows me to post my weird blogs and share my weird thoughts with anyone who is willing to spend some precious time-suckage time on clicks to my blog from Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for that, dear friends! Facebook lets me share my paintings and videos and get valuable feedback so I can improve my art practice. It has also allowed me to vent, cry for help, and help others who are venting and crying for help.

So tonight I will drink my glass of wine, eat my cheese and converse with you on Facebook. See you there.

My favourite wine glass