Are we seen? Do we ever arrive?
Here is some more thought run off of things I’ve been critically thinking about, looking for how I am implicit in it all. Also, just looking for naming some things so the tools to change it can be made. I cant promise this will be the last you hear of this stuff from me, but that’s ok It’s my blog and I will beat this dead horse till I find myself calm when I think about it.
As the world seems to be forever folding in on itself, we gravitate towards the comforts of humor and reduction which can take the sting out momentarily and give the feeling of arrival, in our rush for arrival we are stunted because this social media experiment has death locked narcissism at the intersection of activism. The reductiveness, I know to be a tool often used to make complex subjects palpable and easy to digest, but I have viewed real-life discussions melt down quickly, seemingly because the reduction of complex issues into easily shared humorous internet space junk that is at times both assumptive and give just a bite of something with it considered it fully digested. Everyone becomes an expert based on a snapshot of something and I argue that the proliferation of half thoughts or extremely compressed ideas does less than we think. It’s regressive in the ways it approaches issues like Mental Health, Racism, and other large complex problems. We are multifaceted peoples, and yet we approach others on the basis of this reduction. Repeating patterns like this, we are likely to box ourselves or have our interactions become an issue of power.
I catch myself becoming increasingly resentful of people I actually like in the real world. I was cutting them down to simple one-dimensional entities. My social media feed became just a sea of quasi-political hot takes and repetitive recognition of horrid things going on. It's sometimes overwhelming, you freeze in it, you feel as though there is nothing you can do when all you see are reactive articles and people promoting hopelessness, and we share it all to feel like something was done without sacrificing our comfort in any way because “demonstration of one's own virtue rather than the realization of results” (Rebecca Solnit) at least feels good. This experiment we’ve been conducting on each other of sharing majority images/articles of oppression affects us in a degenerative manner.
It’s hard to make a claim of a social problem stick and sustain itself long enough to enact change when the arena it is being shared on is so ‘I’ based and our relationships have become so transactional. Empathy is a ghost word used in place of grace we bestow upon only a few in uncharted intervals. In a rush to arrive we constantly back burner struggles, eager for the next validating endorphin rush. Self-liberation can be found in momentary blips, but we aren't all emancipated, our collective struggles serve as a function to keep you safe in moral righteousness. Recently, in response to the incarceration and separation of undocumented children and families, I saw many memes rapidly produced and shared widely, statements stating ‘abolish ice’ paired with an absurd image or in vain of a candy bar logo. I agree with the statements, but I couldn't help but ask myself when people were sharing this did they actually believe they were helping something? Was this activism? I’ve come to a place where I don't believe visibility means much at all if our reason for visibility is to separate the ones who ‘know what's up’ or not. I saw a billboard tagged with the statement, “wokeness is the new sunken place” I laughed and then thought about how it can be partly true in the ways wokeness can invisiblize the worker. The housekeeper, the uber driver, the uninformed joe schmo whos politics do not align. The American worker is majority women and not white. If in this cul-de-sac what we do doesn't reach them then it’s self-serving. Signaling virtue, promoting allyship, solidarity with the click of a button this all links back to the intersection of the self over the group and social media activism. Feigning resistance in the form of narcissism invisiblizes the oppressed. A friend of mine said in a cross country conversation about this subject, “Social media accelerates and congeals this obsessive curation of the self in hopes of creating towards redemption or arriving at being “seen” when really we could see each other in the collective labor of care even though that’s harder and slower”. After the dust settled around the endorphin-releasing hot topic, the families were still separated, and we were no closer to policy change. No child saw the meme from a jail cell and giggled. It did nothing but reduce an issue to internet ephemera, a teardrop in an overflowing tub of self-serving informed rhetoric; catch and release and the system does not skip a beat.
Julia Daisy Fraustino & Liang Ma Submitted research they did to the Journal of Applied Communication Research highlighting the tension between awareness- and behavioral-based campaign successes, mainly when communicating using social media and pop-culture-referencing humor. To do this, they used the case of The Center for Disease Controls viral campaign to promote disaster preparedness. Because the CDC is responsible for addressing public-health concerns after major disasters like hurricanes In 2011, after years of putting out the same message and wondering if these messages were well received because they barely got a blip of response they decided to present the information differently. The marketing research showed that viral marketing through social media was highly effective, nevermind this research ended in commerce, which is a whole other avenue of immediate validation, they set out to create their own. They posted that years disaster awareness guide and message under the guise of a how to prepare for the ‘Zombie Apocalypse,’ in the subtext it stated these methods could also be used for an earthquake, hurricane and other natural disasters. The CDC reported that after posted on Monday by Wednesday their servers had crashed with nearly 3 times as much traffic they have ever seen over 10 days. It was seemingly successful using a trending topic, adding it to the waterfall of ephemera on social media and invoking a reaction in readers it was seen as a sign of the times in pushing information. The study done by Fraustino & Ma had a more surprising response. After an interview with a CDC campaign manager, campaign document analysis, and a 2 (information form: social vs. traditional media) × 2 (message strategy: humorous vs. non-humorous) experiment. They stated that Findings show social media can quickly spread information to new publics for minimal costs; however, experiment participants who received the humorous (i.e., zombie) risk message reported significantly weaker intentions to take protective actions in comparison to those who received the traditional, non-humorous risk message. Mostly it was hit, but only to an extent and ultimately failing at its original purpose.