Lately I’ve been exploring mindfulness for self-discovery and stuffs. It’s proving to be very enlightening. It forces you to take a long hard look at the things that are good for you and the things that are not so good for you. Every now and again I go down this very specific existential rabbit hole involving social media. Mindfullness has only increased it’s depth. In a very Carrie Bradshaw way – I got to thinking, how much of me is filtered through my social media? And in the need to create a certain perception of myself, is my own dissatisfaction with certain aspects of myself, manifested within the image I present? Or is my Dissatisfaction with myself, a result of the image I think I should be presenting? Yep, It’s the Rabbit hole. It’s undeniable that social media has a massive affect on how we interact with ourselves and the people around us. We are spoon fed certain reactions and responses almost subliminally.
I think part of the bullshit is that we’ve incorporated the mediatic image and the influence of the façade that is social media so much, that we’ve actually started defining that space as utopian to the extent that our real lives are becoming that much more dystopian. It’s fucked up. It’s fucked up because it means that if we feel like we’re not achieving something worthy of validation from our peers, then we’re somehow failing at life altogether. That’s flat out capitalist propaganda bullshit, made to make you buy shit you don’t need to fill up the void they’ve created. It also helps corporations line their own pockets. This success is almost exclusively materialistic. It’s even more insidious because this is not a physical landscape we’ve created – it’s imagined and yet still highly emotional place that now has roots in our actual being. It holds up an Alice through the looking glass mirror, for us to gaze upon the idealised versions of ourselves that we’ve created. This reflection has the capability to become a space of rampant self-loathing that translates into a broader example of the blatant motives behind commodity culture. It’s not an authentic or truthful representation of who we are at all – because if we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t need to buy shit to help us with that. It means that we’ll always be fed little faux truths that what we need to make it become a reality. We’re told we’re fucked and then given a solution to the fuckery by the very same people.
in the end of history and the last man, Fukuyama theorized that the fall of the berlin wall, ultimately led to the ‘end of history’ with capitalism emerging triumphant. Within the theory, he expands on Plato’s concept of the thymos which describes the area of the soul where feelings of pride and shame are located. Fukuyama suggested that isothymia is the desire to be viewed as equal to other people, whilst megalothymia is the desire to be recognised as superior to other people – or at least a striving to be exceptional. Essentially, the two are the main type of human physiological drives for success. Fukuyama argued ‘that liberal democracy is successful at purging megalothymia from life and substituting for it rational consumption’. If we then look at media, we might understand and consider that we’re all just functioning as the epitome of ‘last men’ struggling with the desires of our Thymos. The heterotopia of our own lacking middle/working class lives, does not and cannot stimulate the urges of our Thymos in an adequate enough way. We remain within a cycle that negates our freedom. Though we want to break free from our circumstances, we want to do so with a social media fuelled capitalist drive and value system that is inherently flawed. Think about it – ten years ago, we wanted to have pancake arses and foundation lips – this was seen as the epitome of beauty standards. If we fast-forward to now, we want bubble butts and kylie Jenner lips. Both of these groups at one point or another is winning or loosing. This consequently means that nothing we achieve or do within this system can ever provide us with any sense of freedom – not even the affirmation that all bodies and faces are beautiful. That answer does not have any currency, Essentially, we are trapped in a kind of karmic wheel. Doing what we want becomes inherently interlinked with the laws of our conditioning – we (including myself) don’t want to ‘get our lips done’ or do ’300 squats’ SOLELY for ourselves. We want to be better than what we perceive we are, and those are the means we have been given. We want to do so at least because the law of society and social media consequently has become like a bondage that dictates our self worth. This emphasises the fact that social media ‘is paradoxically both the problem and the medium through which to reconstruct social class, it is the unsubstantial bottomless realm of cultural collective fantasy’ (Jameson, 1979. Pg, 22). Its sad – because we remain driven by this consumerist culture which means that however much we seek to find a greater meaning through acquisition and through the satisfaction of our appearance to others, there is no greater meaning within this mode of existence.
What’s worse is, for us women – patriarchy has trapped us in this sphere to such an extent, that we have almost lost perspective or access to the world beyond the confines of the beauty standards that social media has defined. Patriarchy at least dictates other more stimulating avenues of success for men. Even in the 21st century, there’s still a direct traditional patriarchal route of success for women. Like, of course, we influencers that are successful – this success is married to our inevitable confinement within a face-tuned filtered space. We’re still presented with a model of patriarchal femininity that does not belong to us. The fact that Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner are insistent on emphasising material markers of her own achievement (an example being a collection of hermes bags or Versace shoes) speak of how our megalothymic desires have to be defined. Moreover, the pre-occupation with a specifically capitalist route to success, demonstrates the various extra restrictions that this world has on us because we are women.
Trauma theory ‘has attempted to demonstrate how psychological and social fragmentation occurs and iterates in processes of acting out’ (Gournelos, 2009. Pg, 510). I interpret this within the homogenising setting of social media, as this would essentially mean that we are loosing our ability to fully recognise ourselves existing outside of an Instagram confine. Going hand in hand with this as I’ve stated, is the fact that we cannot fully exist within it either. This can be seen through the various ways our interpretations of ‘beauty’ has changed over the past 10 years. I like to think of this in a similar way to the representation of the inherently fatal – what he describes as ‘God looking at him’ are the direct consequences of capitalism. His camera catches the woman who died of hypothermia, the dead bird and the sadness of the girl next door. It is so intrinsically profound that it elicits the greatest forms of meaning throughout the film. But rather that eliciting a transcending source of meaning, it demonstrates how the landscape has in fact been left devoid of meaning due to hyper commodification. This has occurred to such an extent that the suburb (think of it as social media in this concept) is left with no redeeming qualities which manifests in the iconic plastic bag scene. The plastic bag becomes a metaphor of the consequences of hyper materialism – loneliness, isolation and eventual spiritual death.
I don’t want to be too pessimistic and gloomy . I honestly believe that if we become mindful in ourselves and work on our real life presence and present – we can create a distance between the person we create online and dictate it’s meaning for us in real life. Rebelling against the standards we are presented with, we become able to blur the boundaries. Counter-culture is something I believe really helps with this. Pride in what we are – not what we think we think we should be – is key. As cheesy as it sounds, nourishing the people we are internally and remaining truthful to our own ethnicity filters out the bullshit. I don’t have to ignore cellulite or stretchmarks. I don’t need their existence validated. I can accept them – if I can’t embrace them – and then I don’t need anyone else’s. Another persons success or failures do not affect me or my own internal self.
That was the rabbit hole.