When sharing is not so self-caring

Social media is a world where everyone tries to out self-promote each other and in doing so, stretch their lives further from reality.

Even the destinations — whether it be a restaurant, hotel resort, or kayaking trip — want to make their experiences more Instagrammable.

Sharing has commoditized life, turning us into an avalanche of rotating ads, blurring the lines between paid and organic. Every post is an ad in some way, shape, or form. Like TV, we start to develop an imaginary relationship with those on screen, doubtful we'd ever met in real life.

The blizzard of images droughts perception with seeing. We feel envious of those in our feed before we know why we may feel so. The contagion of jealousy spreads like a virus. The upshot is a homogenization of lives and content.

We all want what we don't have. Social media generates a false narrative of unnecessary desire. Instagrams are just pictures on a wall, temporarily surfing over the hopes and fears in our genes. It feels good lying stuck in the ludic loop.

But irreality is ephemeral. The long-term narrative eventually wakes us up to the fact that we're barking up the wrong tree. Life is here and now, attracting itself and trying to love you back.

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Stand out of our light

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Huxley predicted that the deliberate flood of information, perhaps a more lethal strategy than Orwellian censorship, would dent our interest in reading books, having active opinions, and therefore make us passive.

The internet, of course, puts information distribution on hyper-speed, skipping from one issue to the next. People consume and quickly forget what's important, all the while externalizing everything onto the screen. We have lost our ability to pay attention, not just because of tweeting politicians but because of screaming merchants.

There's yet another book dissecting this very topic of how technology hijacks the brain. Author James Williams of Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy writes: 

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time. We therefore have an obligation to rewire this system of intelligent, adversarial persuasion before it rewires us.”

The former Google strategist has witnessed the intentional creation of distractive technologies that overpower human will so we no longer “want what we want to want.”

The Financial Times book review writes:

In an attempt to invent new linguistic concepts, the author plays with three types of attentional light: spotlight, starlight and daylight, pertaining to doing, being and knowing.

In this respect, Williams admires the free-speaking Greek philosopher Diogenes. One day, while sunning himself in Corinth, he was visited by Alexander the Great, who promised to grant him any wish. The cranky Diogenes replied: “Stand out of my light!” Williams wants a handful of West Coast tech executives to stop blocking out our human light, too.

Perhaps if we regain our detachment from irreality we'll be able to look back and pinpoint attention distortion with fresh eyes.

Sharing sameness on the gram

I've blogged about it before but it's worth repeating: Instagram homogenizes creativity.

Scroll your feed, and I bet one of the pictures that comes up includes the following: a selfie, a coffee cup in hand, someone standing on a rock, riding in a canoe, or feet up in the sand or mountains, etc. It all looks the same!

Of course, similar cliche-looking pictures can be seen on Unsplash, where I often pluck images to share on my blog.

Thankfully we have accounts like @insta_repeat to remind people, especially adventure influencers, of their mimetic desire to copy each other. The creator of the account is an unknown artist of their own, with no intention than to call out the patterns of sameness in the digital space.

From Quartz

The creator of Insta_Repeat is a 27-year-old filmmaker and artist, who wants to remain anonymous. “I’m not trying to be the arbiter of what photos have value and what don’t. I am just making observations about the homogeneous content that is popular on Instagram,” she told Quartz over email. She says she is baffled by how many shots there are of humans in canoes and atop SUVs—but does see the positives in the repetitive nature of Instagram. “I also think there’s an incredible amount of value in emulation both when someone is learning and continuing their craft,” she says. “Improving upon and building upon what has been done…is an important part the evolution of art.”

The art of conformity is real. If at first, we copy, then we deduce, mixing and meshing what others do until we develop our own unique style. That's a creator's ambition anyway, to do something novel.   

Below are some of the most recent posts from the @insta_repeat account. Make sure to follow along for the latest collages.

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Twitter = High School

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via giphy

The impulsiveness, the cliques, the gossip, and the ego — the Twitter cesspool can be fun, entertaining, and darn-right toxic.

Unlike Instagram, Twitter brings out the worst in people through the abuse of words. In short, it is ‘The High School We Can’t Log Off From.' Writes New York Times columnist Jennifer Senior:

A few years back, the sociologist Robert Faris described high school to me as “a large box of strangers.” The kids don’t necessarily share much in common, after all; they just happen to be the same age and live in the same place. So what do they do in this giant box to give it order, structure? They divide into tribes and resort to aggression to determine status.

The same can be said of Twitter. It’s the ultimate large box of strangers. As in high school, Twitter denizens divide into tribes and bully to gain status; as in high school, too-confessional musings and dumb mistakes turn up in the wrong hands and end in humiliation.

Unlike Apple, Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, Twitter bucked the Silicon Valley trend and kept Alex Jones's account live. Twitter thrives on breaking news and its divisiveness.

Clay Shirky, one of the shrewdest internet theorists around, has noted that the faster the medium is, the more emotional it gets. Twitter, as we know, is pretty fast, and therefore runs pretty hot.

Yet despite all the negativity, Twitter may be the world's most important social network even if it's the least profitable. And while some of its users abuse the public microphone, others use it just to talk, teach, and share their work for the benefit of others.

Life on infinite scroll

Scroll, tap, repeat, refresh. Novelty hypnotizes us. The fantasy that we can talk directly to celebrities and act like one ourselves for fifteen seconds puts us in a dopamine-infused trance.

The internet's a stage, with individuals accruing endorsements through the bartering of likes. Remember when tech intended to make the world a better place, not an impulsive and egotistical society led into dystopia by a Tweeting lunatic.

The good news is that our eyeballs are still intact. The scenery outside the sorcery of our rectangular devices is not going anywhere. We can always step out and take a fresh breath of air.

The barrage of distractions creates conflict that runs opposite of concentration. The goal now is agreeing to stay focused, like a referee judging a football match. We are present, reminding other people that they too are still there.

Hooked on artifice and spin

Twitter's removal of millions of fake accounts reminds us that not everything is what it seems. The internet is full of bots, replicating humans, even programmed to act more human than the humans themselves.

We too are conscious automata, no more authentic than the droids themselves. People are just savvy editors. We present our best selves online to increase our self-worth make other people envious.

Artifice defeats authenticity in all chess matches of the irreality we crave.

Yet, the push to be at our best could be the resolution to our proposed mediocrity. Why shoot ourselves down when a quasi-celebrity lifestyle sits at our fingertips.

Fame happens to the mobile holder. Stuck in a ludic loop, we are the host of our own Truman Show. Attention captured, republished, and released. We're neither superior to bots nor are we consciously behind.

The Truman Show Delusion

Some people believe that all reality is one big TV show and they’re the star. Others seem to think that the world is simulated and that their life has always been lived on a predetermined stage.

But are we that special?

Your fingerprints are uniquely yours. So is your Twitter microphone. But in the age of lying and edited selves, everything exists but the truth. Meanwhile, your google search history reveals all.

Whatever you believe, there’s no choice but to rub your face in the fact that reality of the world presented is what it is. We just have to do our best.

Technology spreads unreality

The reason we’re so comfortable around friends is because we can strip away the plastic and can be ourselves, zits and all.

The problem with social media is that while it allows for the perfected self, it also undermines reality. Juxtaposing our screen lives and raw selves can make us feel fraudulent.

Technology spreads unreality.

The law of attraction says that we can achieve what we think, visualize, and collect. But what colonizes parts of our mind with fantasies and ideals also deceives us.

Technology may spread unreality, but there is no substitute for facts.

No matter how many times we pollute Instagram with the edited self, the squares decompose as quickly as they’re shared.

Life doesn’t recycle on the internet’s stage.

The sorcery of screens

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The internet never ends. Mountains of content are piling up as we speak.

The hook is neither in our control or that of technology. We pull the lever, the slot machine spits out a variable reward.

It’s impossible to disentangle ourselves from the mindlessness of a ludic loop. With more data, the machine grows smarter and more manipulative.

But we can’t fault our own blindness, zombie scrolling in the sorcery of screens.

All the while, the trees are abundant, pumping oxygen into nature and encouraging humans to rejoin the broken.

Tethered to the magic of screens, we feed the data distilleries with our oil and reap cheap entertainment pellets in return. There is no quid pro quo. We are competent and conscious only in our dreams, awaiting that return to an archaic form of life.

ORCAA, a logo to certify organic algorithms

Her latest project ORCAA, O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing, offers services to companies that promise to maintain a more honest algorithm that unlike Facebook, doesn't sacrifice private data to maximize revenue.

“The internet is a propaganda machine,” writes author Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction where she criticizes the algorithms which have come to disrupt society and politics.

Her latest project ORCAA, O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing, offers services to companies that promise to maintain a more honest algorithm that unlike Facebook, doesn't sacrifice private data to maximize revenue.

“People don’t really check that things are working,” she tell Fast Company. “They don’t even know how to ask the question.”

For the logo, Cathy O’Neil requested the designer Katie Falkenberg make it look “fat and fierce.” I think they just about nailed it.

Right now, the seal is a simple ring design with ORCAA’s killer whale logo and text that reads, “Algorithm audited for accuracy, bias, and fairness,” with the date. Falkenberg hopes to one day update it so it gets timestamped from the date it’s uploaded to a company’s website. Because algorithms are constantly changing, Falkenberg wants the seal to let users know when an algorithm was last certified. O’Neil says algorithms should be regularly audited–perhaps once every two years or so, depending on the complexity of the code. Falkenberg also hopes to link the seal to O’Neil’s website so users can understand exactly what it means when they see it.

Visualizing social media reality through 3D art

New York-based artist Ben Fearnley designed some visualizations to illustrate our sticky social media relationships. #facebook #socialmedia #art #design

Ubiquitous and abundant, social media companies manipulate human psyche. They are addictive by design. Yet users continue to consent to sell their attention (re: data) to merchants. Each platform — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat — has their own cunning way of keeping us hooked. New York-based artist Ben Fearnley designed some visualizations to illustrate our sticky social media relationships. 

“Each one of these platforms encourages a different kind of communication and the amount of time we spend on social media has skyrocketed. I challenged myself to create a visualisation of how I could represent each social platform’s user interaction in the most simplistic way that people could relate to and find conceptually amusing at the same time.”

Feel free to laugh and cry while I check my Tweets.

(h/t Creative Boom)

How social media fuels fantasies of the ideal self

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Social media is the story we want to tell about ourselves. It is the edited self.

The problem occurs when that ideal self fails to match up with the real one. Can we live up to the image and credentials minted in our LinkedIn profile?

Fake it until you make it?

We paint our social media feeds with fantasies and hang them like pictures on a wall. For some people, it's like directing and starring in their own movie. For others, sharing can make them feel like they have to be more accountable in real life. It's a chance to match in action what our thumbs project in our profiles.

The internet is a chance to choose ourselves. We don't need permission to post. As dehumanizing as it sounds, everyone can be their own brand without losing a sense of self.

The butterfly has to come out of the cocoon and face the music eventually.

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — they all work like any other placebo. They inspire us to be our best self. The only hope is that we can match the narrative on the other side of the screen.