Book Chapter

Social Media as a false-self system



Singh G (2019) Social Media as a false-self system. In: The Death of Web 2.0: Ethics, Connectivity and Recognition in the Twenty-First Century. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 139-158.

First paragraph: In the Charlie Brooker-helmed television drama Black Mirror (Ch4/Netflix 2011-present), there is a moment in the episode 'The Entire History of You' when the two main characters Liam and Ffion (played by Toby Kebbell and Jodie Whittaker) are having sex in their marital bed. We are witness to their lovemaking as a discernibly passionate encounter full of physical satisfaction, signified through energetic heavy-breathing, moaning and sweat. We see the couple enthusiastically snatch at each other's bodies, apprehending each other in a grasp of mutual body-recognition – one in the other, each as one whole part of a greater union. It is, in other words, a representation of an idealised sexual encounter between two people who would seem very much in love. The scene is abruptly intercut with another in which the same couple, in the same bed, are still having sex – but something altogether disturbing is revealed in this alternating effect. The premise behind 'The Entire History of You' is based around speculative prosthetic memory technologies, where nearly all of the characters in the episode have had a small device implanted in their head called 'grains'. These implants record everything they see, and from these recordings, they are able to re-watch (and thus to an extent, relive) moments from the past, either privately, or in company through television monitoring. This documentation lifestyle is very much an extrapolation of the ways in which people have adopted social media technologies to share abundant images of their lives. From holiday snaps to breakfast to ultrasound images, photo albums and social media galleries and 'stories' act as evidence to satisfy the lifestyle clarion call of 'pics or it never happened'. It is also reflective of the normalisation of this evidential behaviour – characters who have not had 'grains' fitted are considered curiosities, anomalies: much like those who have not adopted Facebook and other massively popular Web 2.0 technologies in real life, they are outliers.

Publication date31/12/2019
Publication date online10/12/2018
Publisher URL…ok/9780415703802
Place of publicationAbingdon

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Professor Greg Singh
Professor Greg Singh

Professor, Communications, Media and Culture