"Social Media Is Not Self-Expression" (article)



Another take on social media from quite a different angle.  Highlights below, then the link.

"[Online codified, social-media platformed] subjectivation is not a flowering of autonomy and freedom; it’s the end product of procedures that train an individual in compliance and docility. One accepts structuring codes in exchange for an internal psychic coherence. Becoming yourself is not a growth process but a surrender of possibilities that we learn to regard as egregious, unbecoming."

"[S]ocial order is protected not by preventing 'self-expression' and identity formation but encouraging it as a way of forcing people to limit and discipline themselves — to take responsibility for building and cleaning their own cage. Thus, the dissemination of social-media platforms becomes a flexible tool for social control. The more that individuals express through these codified, networked, formatted means to construct a 'personal brand' identity, the more they self-assimilate, adopting the incentive structures of capitalist social order as their own."

On the effect of social media upon more authentic modes of creative subjectivation/individuation:

"While she was able to hole up in a seaside restaurant and produce a masterpiece, I need constant feedback and encouragement in order not to end up curled in some dark corner of my house, eating potato chips and refreshing my Tumblr feed in the hope that someone will have “liked” my Photoshopped picture of Kanye West in a balloon chair."

"[T]he [above is a] difference between an inner-directed process of discovery and a kind of outer-directed pseudo-creativity that in its pursuit of attention gets overwhelmed by desperation"

"[True], the idea that anything is truly “inner-directed” may be a ideological illusion, given how we all develop interiority in relation to a social world that precedes us and enables us to survive. But what I am trying to emphasize here is how production in social media is often sold to users of these platforms as self-expressive creativity, as self-discovery, as an elaboration of the self even, but it is really a narrowing of the self to the reductive, defensive aim of getting recognition, reassurance of one’s own existence, that one belongs."

"Self-invention in social media that is perpetually in search of “feedback” is really just the production of communication, which gives value not to the self but to the network that gets to carry more data (and store it, and sell it)."

"Validation is nice, but as a goal for creative effort, it is somewhat limited. The quest for validation must inevitably restrict itself to the tools of attracting attention: the blunt instruments of novelty and prurience (“Kanye West in a balloon chair”). The self one tries to express tends to be new, exciting, confessional, sexy, etc., because it plays as an advertisement. Identity is a series of ads for a product that doesn’t exist."

Or to the above, for a product that is "you" - you not as a human being or subject but you as a personal brand.

"Social media’s quantifying metrics aggravate the problem, making expression into a series of discrete items to be counted, ranked. It serves as the infrastructure for a feedback loop that orients expression toward the anxiety of what the numbers will be and accelerates it, as we try to better those numbers, and thereby demonstrate that the self-monitoring is teaching us something about how to become more “relevant.”

"The alternative would seem to be a sort of deep focus in isolation, in which one accepts the incompleteness that comes from being apart from an audience, that comes from not seeking final judgment on what one is doing and letting it remain ambiguous, open-ended, of the present moment and not assimilated to an archive of identity."

"So is the solution to get off the Internet? If social media structure social behavior this way, just don’t use them, right?...The inescapable reciprocity of social relations comes into much sharper relief when you stop using social media, which thrive on the basis of the control over reciprocity they try to provide. They give a crypto-dashboard to social life, making it seem like a personal consumption experience, but that is always an illusion, always scattered by the anxiety of waiting, watching for responses, and by the whiplash alternation between omnipotence and vulnerability."

"Social media offer a single profile for our singular identity, but our consciousness comprises multiple forms of identity simultaneously."

"Exodus won’t yield freedom. The problem is not that the online self is “inauthentic” and the offline self is real; it’s that the self derived from the data processing of our digital traces doesn’t correspond with our active efforts to shape an offline/online hybrid identity for our genuine social ties. What seems necessary instead is a way to augment our sense of “transindividuality,” in which social being doesn’t come at the expense of individuality....Instead of using social media to master the social component of our own identity, we must use them to better balance the multitudes within."

Link to the full article HERE.