“We live in a world where there are more and more images and less and less meanings” -Baudrillard
Quiz a teenager about his/her daily itinerary and don’t be surprised if browsing through social networking sites and being a devotee of these virtual podiums towers high in their list. But is it simply the teenagers, of course not. The spell of social networking sites has allured the septuagenerarians too. Such is the impact of social networking sites in our life that a day without checking the latest update lulls in void and restlessness permeates into all other activities.
The social networking sites have colonized the concrete relationships that we have with people around us and made us slave to virtual mediums which thrives itself on the politics of fetishizationÂ and image perpetuation. In facebook, an individual posts pictures and updates status with the persistent urge to get noticed which is manifested through “likes” and “comments”. Your scoreboard for popularity is gauged through the number of “likes” you secure and if your “friend” decides to “share” the picture, then your popularity meter reaches a different altar. But what this situation incubates is the compulsive endeavour to remain in limelight and confirm to the image. This conformity is brought about by replicating similar pose and demeanour for the next picture or in an attempt to be different one comes up with a pose which is ready to be simulated by the photocopy market. The ebbing desire to surpass the “likes” than the former picture instils in the individual to ‘perform’ the self. This is a concept by Sociologist Erving Goffman who contended that individuals are constantly performing so that there are no disruptions in our regular interaction. Once an image comes into the social podium, there is the drive to confirm and affirm to that image everytime you log in. A space for relaxation and rejuvenation suddenly turns into a space for calculative decision-making. Leisure (often concomitant with these sites) recedes into the background and some serious work becomes part of our staple diet to organize and articulate the actions around the images.
Sometimes the image becomes a larger person than us. It becomes all the more salient when our relationship with the “friends” and “followers” pertains solely through these platforms. We might be absolutely clueless about the works of Foucault or Virginia Woolf but who will stop this superficial cheat-game if one simply copy-paste a quote and flaunt the intellectual me! Hence, the notion, reinforcement and exaltation of individuality remain a mirage: there is a concatenation of imitation and the exclusivity of one’s profile picture disappears like a puff of dust. Individuality is a myth in these podiums as we continuously need affirmation for our every action through a virtual community. Reason: A million pictures mushroom replicating that image that renders our picture individuality. If one embarks upon countering this trend by using quotes from intellectuals or just scribbling spontaneous thoughts it is no sooner that this measure is adopted by “friends” followed by “friends of friends”. It is just a matter of time that one witnesses that the exclusivity of “I, me and myself” has been hijacked by the market principle of profit.
Another trend that social networking sites have flooded in is the claim of every other person as photographer and model. Emancipation and glorification of womanhood is celebrated through either ‘smudged sindoor’ or a woman who is looking outside of the window-her eyes is meant to speak thousand words, however that critical and reflective moment that you as an audience should engage have already been accomplished through captions. The photographs portray a propensity to be in black-and-white as it is deemed to be classic and timeless. Once someone identifies the license to secure instant attention similar photography and modelling concepts looms large with the hallucinating effect of being different. The concept of originality and creativity remains like beyond-the—reach-constellation as the photocopy mindset is always on its prowl to engulf the ‘you’ and distil the ‘you’ to the cloning collectivism. Hence, individuality becomes a myth and assertion of individuality remains a greater myth!