Friday, May 4, 2018

The Society of Social Media

Literary Experiment: Take the first 9 theses of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle (1967), and replace the word "spectacle" with "social media". Fix the syntax. The result is, well, interesting:

1. The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of social media. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.
2. Images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream, and the former unity of life is lost forever. Apprehended in a partial way, reality unfolds in a new generality as a pseudo-world apart, solely as an object of contemplation. The tendency toward the specialization of images-of-the-world finds its highest expression in the world of the autonomous image, where deceit deceives itself. Social media in their generality are a concrete inversion of life, and, as such, the autonomous movement of non-life.
3. Social media appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges. Being isolated - and precisely for that reason -this sector is the locus of illusion and false consciousness; the unity it imposes is merely the official language of generalized separation.
4. Social media are not a collection of images; rather, they are a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.
5. Social media cannot be understood either as a deliberate distortion of the visual world or as a product of the technology of the mass dissemination of images. It is far better viewed as a weltanschauung that has been actualized, translated into the material realm - a world view transformed into an objective force.
6. Understood in their totality, social media are both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not something added to the real world - not a decorative element, so to speak. On the contrary, it is the very heart of society's real unreality. In all their specific manifestations - news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment - social media epitomize the prevailing model of social life. They are the omnipresent celebration of a choice already made in the sphere of production, and the consummate result of that choice. In form as in content social media serve as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system. They further ensure the permanent presence of that justification, for they govern almost all time spent outside the production process itself.
7. The phenomenon of separation is part and parcel of the unity of the world, of a global social praxis that has split up into reality on the one hand and image on the other. Social practice, which social media's autonomy challenges, is also the real totality to which the social media is subordinate. So deep is the rift in this totality, however, that social media are able to emerge as its apparent goal. The language of the social media is composed of signs of the dominant organization of production - signs which are at the same time the ultimate end-products of that organization.
8. Social media cannot be set in abstract opposition to concrete social activity, for the dichotomy between reality and image will survive on either side of any such distinction. Thus social media, though they turn reality on its head, are themselves a product of real activity. Likewise, lived reality suffers the material assaults of social media's mechanisms of contemplation, incorporating the socialmediatic order and lending that order positive support. Each side therefore has its share of objective reality. And every concept, as it takes its place on one side or the other, has no foundation apart from its transformation into its opposite: reality erupts within the social media, and the social media is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and underpinning of society as it exists.
9. In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.

No comments: