Sophia, as she clicks herself in every angle possible, redoing her makeup, maybe polishing her nails as well. Filtering, editing and cropping it for a perfect Instagram post. For her, beauty is something she can connect her social platform with. She generally gets 100-150 likes with few comments admiring her aesthetics. She shops as soon as all her clothes have been displayed in her profile. She makes sure that her pictures go well with the captions. For Sophia, the most imperative things are the things that can look good on her Facebook or Instagram account. Her trips to various cities or her gym membership or maybe getting into a relationship with a guy she would look good in pictures with. The things that are aesthetically pleasing are the things that fit into her phone camera. It was her friend Carol’s birthday. Sophia has been awaiting her birthday since a very long time so that she can upload the perfect birthday post and again get more pictures of the birthday party.
Whereas, Carol isn’t enthusiastic about taking or posting pictures. She cribs when her friends force her for pictures, she doesn’t understand why this has become such an inevitable thing in our lives. Carol likes creating an aura of mystery for the people who don’t know her.
Sophia tries explaining Carol that it is really important for the pictures to look good as this becomes a part of their personality and they are being tracked in this digital world; it would be better for them to maintain what the world asks them to.
Carol: But hey, why do we need to self represent ourselves?
Sophia: Self representation? I don’t see it that way. It’s an art. I find it extremely amusing that people take so much effort in the self representation of themselves.
Carol intrudes: how come people don’t talk about the efforts behind those pictures, how come people don’t talk about the cosmetics or those 100 pictures that were taken for that one perfect candid?
Sophia was occupied on her phone by then.
Sophia: Don’t you see it? There are multiple versions of individualism; it is so enlightening to see people doing those innumerable things and have one platform to put it forward in front of their friends.
Carol intervenes: But Soph, aren’t these things only within an expression of social conformity? We end up showing the world is the version of ourselves we like. We put a picture of those beautiful mountains but not the bruises that we get. We put a picture of our abs, our perfect workout but we wouldn’t talk about those therapy sessions, we wouldn’t talk about our cash crunch that took place for those crazy diet we underwent. Don’t you see it? It’s a pattern. We’re all tied up in this cobweb going on knitting it adding a new thread to this pattern every minute. It’s an escape from realism.
Sophia gets agitated: Carol, it’s all about perspective. Social media has given great power to express their individualities. Everyone wants to be heard, we live in this era where we have innumerable platforms to represent ourselves. Don’t you find it interesting? You can tell how exactly that person wants to be portrayed.
Carol rolling her eyes: Interesting? What are you talking about, Soph? You think performing the self is interesting. So much of conscious effort in constructing the self for this superficial world. Do you ever question yourself? What are you? Do you realize, who you are? No, we are all basking in this glory of madness masking the realities of our lives. Do you remember learning Jean Baudrillard? Where he reaches the fourth stage which has no relationship to any kind of reality. I feel we’re in that stage. Look around you...Do you see anyone out of their phones? See, I don’t detest social media but I’m talking about the imbalance that has taken over.
Sophia: But there must be a reason why everyone is always glued to their screens.
Carol: Well, sure there is. You know I read this article the other day which says “Religion is often described as the “opiate of the masses” because it gave the poor and downtrodden hope of salvation in the afterlife. For today’s youth social media serves a similar purpose, distracting them from widespread political and economic hopelessness and offering some a potential route out of it. Little wonder that so many find it so hard to peel themselves away from their smartphone screens".
Sophia: Well it goes either ways Carol. Social media allows people to participate irrespective of gender, race or caste. We often forget that it has been one of the most empowering tools for the upliftment of the society, escaping from the oppressive gender norms of the offline world.
Carol: I agree to what you said but it can also enslave people. You can’t ignore the fact that sexism, racism, homophobia and another form of discrimination are also pertinent in the social media space.
Sophia: Yes, do you see what I’m trying to say? Social media is not that different from reality; the same social dynamics which play out in real life also percolate to social media.
Carol: Sure, but the discourse is about the self. How self absorption has become a thing. We’ve all become narcissistic.
Sophia: I don’t see any problem in that. As long as they’re happy.
Carol: No as long as they’re socially validated.