The digital turn of our times is opening up debates that put us in a new and so far under-explored situation: that of digital identities as being an extension of our offline caged beings. Please allow me the poetry without the need to academically explain what I mean by that; it is the caged being. It is an old debate. I know! Much is being and has been written about it and I know a very clever person who is going to write about digital culture and the way we are (not going to say how/what/who and the like).
However, the question of the offline-online is still being largely neglected. We talk very much about the algorithmic turn of capitalism; I heard Luciana Parisi talking about algorithm as becoming an ontological ‘something’ and I was fascinated.
However, I would argue, we should also question how is the ‘being digital’ feeding back into the everyday life? How are we selfie-driven? How is our offline life getting into the online world and vice versa?
The UK is the place where we tweet about anything; and it is absolutely good. I am an advocate of sharing thoughts as long as your boss doesn’t sack you. However, thoughts are increasingly becoming images and these images are becoming a continuous flow of instants that we feel the urge to share. Instantly.
In the nice old past, we looked at the Internet as the place where loss of identity, loss of gender, loss of patriarchal constraints would finally happen and we would fly free. Liberty. However, we know that it would be impossible to talk about freedom and democracy; blurred concepts that would lead some people I know say that there is a clash between what democracy is (ontology) and what democracy does (epistemology).
However, what I see from my very basic and down-to-earth-academic perspective is a world continuously merging online and offline, where the online identity is an extension of old (and animated) debates. Which is frustrating for those who looked at the digital world as something that could eventually better our ways of dealing with ourselves. I have asked loads of students why they post on Facebook, why they post pics of themselves everywhere and then feel the urge to share immediately on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. The same pic over and over again. The answer is always the same: it s cool. Although I have to say the BAME students I have make sure they have a ‘clean’ profile if they have relatives back home to avoid blame and find alternative ways of sharing (whatsapp or twitter…as if!).
Everybody is adding pictures to their platforms to tell a story. Even LinkedIn is now inviting people to add more personal details, and post adding pictures. Surely, this is good in terms of overall media tracking; just ad a tag and boom. Job done. This is not good if I see people going around with their phones taking selfies for everything; and I mean everything. Near a dumpster, with a client, with a friend, with a new dress (most of the time horrible). Not to talk about ‘chiara is at Virgin Active feeling great’ and the like…I mean…Lula comes to mind!
Positively put, image is becoming the extension of men and facebook and the like are becoming the extension of our identities; a perpetuation of our little lives. But is Facebook just reproducing what we have tried –so insistently- to find online, which is freedom from the overall boundaries we are raised within?
Going back to the point of the social dimension of finding a job through Linked I talked about, I am wondering if this #selfie mania is pervading our offline daily life. I can only see poor man sex-and-the-city people and less and less prepared professionals who can avoid rookie mistakes when dealing with clients and suppliers. Surely, my universe is made of a small % of the western population but still….are we facebook-ising our life making it fit in one standard page made of sketchy (yet superficial) talks and heavy-weighted images?