Our personae on social media are the polished ones. The never-aging ones. A forest overwhelmed by breadcrumbs. Millions of elastic rubber bands attached to our minds. On a daily basis we collect what we like best about our lives and showcase it. Erasing all substance, the hardships, or we sensationalise the tragic privacy of misfortunes on social media as well. We think that we are giving our spectatorship the big shiny picture of ourselves, but it consists of exclusively cherry-picked, formatted and stylised miniatures and replicas of half-truths.
We cherish our online presence more than the real one, where our mind is connected to our body, our heart to our life, our feet on the ground, our head out of the cloud. We think of it as perfect, a body is a mere image, a face is a facade, a gathering of friends a mere staring-at-your-smartphone-screen-contest. The moment is arrested and it cannot be destroyed after it has been posted. A still life. Forever stagnant on a shelf. Shoved into the background with every new image, becoming irrelevant and mediocre.
Our social media collages of our lives are manifestos of wishful thinking, believing that we have managed to extract the best of us and exorcised all the rest that does not seem to matter. We start to believe in this reflection of us, smiling back at us, lifeless, full of our projections. The colours, the filters, other worlds, perfected little digital Polly Pockets.
There is no life behind the making of these staged photographs. It’s pure artifice. Discomfort with oneself, with the actual world, a deviated, repetitive and blind gaze that is ever-fixed on details and mimicry. We scroll down our cavalcade of pretence and force ourselves onto it, into it. Our bodies cannot go there. Our minds get sick. Our bodies get sick. They know the truth and they want to communicate it to us. But we want out, we want in. We believe in the idealised construct of us. The picture of us in other people’s heads. We hold on to it, but it is dead matter. It has no heartbeat. It lacks essence.
We stick our heads into our fake faces and wish life upon them. What we are, all-encompassing, we neither validate nor appreciate. One perfect event after another, we recreate and reorganise our biography, detached from life that was lived. There are only bright and bulky colours robbed of their nuances. No sandcastles, just skyscrapers. We reduce ourselves to fit in: compact, in your face, all of you, exposed and deciphered at first sight, the life sucked out of you, a systematic automaton existing to please and maintain mere appearances.
We want our social media identities to be true, everything that is portrayed, selected, aestheticised. We want people to scroll down our beautified paths as if they were in a gallery full of paintings, perceiving the best of us, the ugliness of life exiled from the premises, thrown off the frame that we orchestrated. There lies our scopophilia, our self-obsession, our addiction. We feed the beast because we believe in beauty, just not in our own, outside of digital parameters, and that of a life that begs to be lived truly.
“Woman with a Mirror” by Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)