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Comment on Social Networking Tools and our Future Society

Xarene Sat, Nov 29, 2008
Well, my comments are post-length, but here it goes anyway...

The mirror-touch synesthesia notthisbody mentions is brilliant if implemented as a mediator of our physical existence and our digital existence. As we currently are—trapped in embodied experiences—I feel it is important to not suddenly cut the supply cord and go 100% digital. We are not 'physically' ready for that...

I am deeply concerned with the quality of online relationships and communications while we have this dual existence between the disembodied internet one and the forced physical one. notthisbody again points out an example of that concern with his online friends not connecting physically. What is the meaning of either relationship in a scenario like this? Which one is real? How can that difference be resolved? How can we prevent that difference from perpetuating into a situation where we can never tolerate each other physically?

The reality of communication and of meaning. More real than the real, that is how the real is abolished. Baudrillard, The Implosion of Meaning in the Media


In the case of your friend's death—I am also very familiar with your experience of life and death crossing over into the digital realm—her subsequent extended life online is a "more real than the real" experience: you know for a fact that she is gone (the reality) but you are faced with this other reality of her, still existing through her online presence which will never die. Unconsciously—and by human nature wanting immortality—we will accept this hyperreality of 'forever alive' over the reality of 'forever dead' and that is how the reality of her physical existence will be abolished. Now consider how some alive folk have as much online activity as dead folk do on their profiles. What is the difference between these two entities, behaving the same?

The impersonal, one-sided, anti-theatrical and journalistic quotes and status updates are a simulacrum of communication and a false notion of having meaningful information and relationships as a result of these quips. These social network existences "stage meaning" through a "process of simulation". To quote Baudrillard again, in regard to our collapsing social organizations "...[W]here we think that information produces meaning, the opposite occurs." Where we think we are producing relationships, the opposite occurs. It is a simulacrum, which if we face it's reality, we will also be faced with the reality of absolute meaningless and emptiness of the relationship. So we ignore it, justify it and compound it with more of the same. At some point, when communication and meaning are lost, social functions are lost. It will start from the individuals losing themselves and creep in and affect the whole before we know it.

I am a proponent of losing the body in favour of the mind. This has changed my view of life and death all together. I see the body as something disposable and, for now, a major hindrance to what the mind can achieve. At some point our minds will figure out how to disembody, but disembodiment should not come at the cost of losing our social networks—and by social networks I mean true human-to-human empathic connections. At the same time that I want to disembody, I can not ignore that our emotional and psychological conditions as humans are the result of learned and embodied experiences. Will we have a generation of humans that will lose the meaning of human-to-human real and physical relationships? (I think that is the last generation of humans as we know humans to be.) There are already humans trying to marry non-humans because they can't cope with the perils of physical human connection...