Reality is Rapture: Commit Virtual Suicide
In light of revelations that data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed and improperly stored information from millions of Facebook users, I present an essay from 2012 about the crisis of social media.
You and I are witness to the dawn of a new reality. For the first time in the history of humanity we are observing a radical transmutation in the ways in which we experience existence. The Digital Revolution, defined by the modern achievements in technology and development of the global information society, has dramatically transformed the ways in which we functions. Each of us has experienced the effects of these changes and many have happily adapted to the new order as advocates of the improved life. This development has signaled the birth of the post-humanist person at the crossroads of the natural and the invented. The Internet is becoming invisible, soon conception of life before its existence will seem absurd. It’s associated instruments are rapidly being absorbed as a member of our bodily appendages, a resource that we are not only inseparable from but also need in order to function. Do you not look at your peers and realize this is an era of insanity? The condition of our nation is a result of the tyrannical dictates of gluttonous mercenaries and apologist’s of inane religious propaganda. Our demonstrations are laughable; mobs of people have taken to the streets without the capacity to construct any unified aim or agreed upon objective in order to generate change. We are confused and disconnected, dismissive of our relationship to society and afraid of our collective power. Despite pioneering developments in communications technology, we have been made immobile and stupid, anti-individual and self-obsessed. The illusion of interpersonal connections via the “world wide web” is a scam, a virtual mystification of human relations. We are a nation of people who were born real and have willingly sacrificed our existence to the heavens of invented life. The technology of the virtual is a shepherd for those who ache for their own resurrection, waiting to be re-born into the artificial. This is the age of perpetual sleep! This is the execution of actuality!
The Internet is a cult
The Internet has become a soapbox for the idiot, a forum for the insane, and a public diary for those obsessed with their own insignificance. Greater access to knowledge is not the same as greater knowledge. Everyone is given a voice and a place to publish their thoughts without being held responsible for the value of this information. We find others who share like-minded ideas, we begin to trust certain virtual sources and form alliances with virtual communities. People choose do not to expose themselves to new or different ideas, but seek out sources that will support their own convictions. The irrational is indulged and the power to eliminate the influence of absurdity has disappeared. The mandate of the amateur reigns supreme. Social media is the breeding ground for fools and a church for the egocentric. The architects of the machine have become our idols and they are the creators of a self-worshiping faith.
Massacre of mindfulness
We are constantly assaulted by massive amount of information everyday and have become adept at scanning and skimming in order to cognitively manage this condition. Linear thinking has become increasingly antiquated. The process in which we base our understanding of information on the gradual accumulation of supporting details has been sacrificed to the slogan, the image, the catchphrase, headline, and status update. The ability to focus and maintain attention is diminishing. The greatness of the “information superhighway” has exhausted our awareness and redefined the value of comprehension. We are no longer present and attentive. Instead, the new age is highlighted by an abandonment of the real world in favor of the cyber. Every facet of the web is an exercise in reinterpreting the world. The outcome of which generates a dissatisfaction with authentic human perception and experience. Social media has allowed for us to exhaustively scrutinize life itself. Real events are treated with banality and reinterpreted and repackaged for consumption in the virtual. The constant redefining and reimagining of life gradually denies its real substance. The computer is no longer a computer and a phone is not a phone, rather, it a doorway to communication — it is the personification of the machine. This is a life of fiction! We collectively struggle to confront our problems because they require real action and real interaction. Solutions are incomprehensible because they are part of the world sacrificed to convenience.
The value of the singular event
The reinterpretation and recording of our lives demands more attention and thought than the actual experience, but the real barely has time to take place before it’s immediately reproduced virtually. It is rare that we are exposed to the raw image of something before it is altered in favor of something improved or re-imagined. It is proof of a world devoted to hyper-reality and evidence that our concept of time is being redefined. This notion is duly applicable to the news and other media outlets that maintain the responsibility of providing consumers with accounts of events that have a direct correlation to action happening around the world. Yet, these exploit the image as a means of communication, and I fear that the irrepressible assault of these images has systematically desensitized us. The constant depiction of violence, cruelty, and misery has decontextualized the weight of these realities. We have grown indifferent. On a macro-level, we have become disconnected to the legitimacy of world-events and unable to realistically conceive of action as it is. On a micro-level, our own experiences are almost simultaneously dismissed at the moment they materialize as inadequate until they are reinterpreted and documented in real-time for public exhibition. Reality itself is becoming an image, vulgar and visible. The value of the singular event and our ability to be present in a moment of time is in the process of being forgotten.
Digital narcissism: voyeurs and exhibitionists of personal insignificance
The immensely popular phenomenon of social-networks, blogs, and online-communities have revolutionized the way that we envision ourselves. As a precondition for participation, participants are prompted to invent a virtual representation of themselves. In this way, we have the capacity to manipulate these depictions to favor personal preferences or embody a variety of identities. This image becomes our brand. It becomes identifiable and linked to the entity that controls it (us). We make choices about what associations are made between our likeness and other information, self-controlled and constantly refined. The image is inherently public and represents a constant exchange of details about one person to another. Our fabricated online identities are what we want others to see and understand about us. Yet, it is merely an approximation of our true selves, a fictitious incarnation of our personalities.
We have become grossly addicted to these resemblances. The endless re-creation of ourselves have made us lust after our own image and become fascinated by our own thoughts. It is a practice in flagrant exhibitionism. People have become enamored by their own insignificance. One’s own created image is worshiped with such a fetishistic attitude that most believe the trivial details of their day are so significant that they are driven to express themselves at every moment. In this endeavor, a response is anticipated. A kind of virtual stroking of one’s self-importance, inspiring a pattern of superficial flattery and bullshit. The entire process has become more about mutual gratification than a valuable means of communication with one’s peers. It is a role-playing game, a fantasy of self-creation. The result of this trend will soon be obvious in the new generation of narcissistic youth. How do we hope to raise future leaders when we are collectively encouraging the conditioning of individuals as self-concerned and powerless? People are unable to accept the reality of their own irrelevance and invent new and absurd ways to cope with this. This is not the empowerment of the individual: it is the demoralization of personal spirit and strength. It is the death of humility and self-respect.
The myth of collective power
There is a notion that there is great power in the ability to access and utilize resources of global communication. The Egyptian revolution and much of the events during the Arab Spring have celebrated the Internet as a new means toward realizing political change. Indeed, social media has enabled us to communicate expeditiously, however, it also has created an environment where many have been punished for publishing hostile personal social and political views. Nevertheless, the Internet has introduced a new resource for organizing, debating, and has provided opportunities to mobilize action. Yet, there is an interplay of external influences and outside conditions that affect the ability to utilize such resources, and it is important to realize that concept of social media is still in its infancy. I present the following problems in consideration of the value of the Internet as a means of generating social and political change. The novelty of using networking sites has already been lost. The flux of “causes” and “on-line petitions” has trivialized the value of these missions. Further, the notion of “cyber-activism”, encourages laziness and creates an opportunity to circumvent actual-activism. If we are looking to create change in the real world, than we need to participate in the real world.
The move toward a more personalized web is greatly reducing the ability for people to utilize the collective power of the web effectively. Google knows more about us than we do ourselves. Invisible algorithms collect and compile data from our digital paths in order to form conclusions about our habits, lusts, and interests so it may provide us with access to compatible products and information. We are being continuously reduced as human beings, cogs in a social machine. In a personalized world, we will be exclusively force-fed news that is familiar and confirms our beliefs, privately filtering out any information contrary to our individual ideologies. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the exchange of ideas. The world is becoming isolated. Our interests and fears are becoming a commodity.
As long as we function within a world that is invented, and in this way is controlled and monitored, we are tied to the restrictions of this invention. The championed “collective power” of the Internet destroys personal power, creating a modern man who is anti-individual, self-obsessed, and pro-collectivist. This new generation will lack any sense of personal confidence and have no ability to solve their own problems or satisfy their own needs. The virtual world is becoming a surrogate, we are re-envisioning our existence and our consciousness, agency, intimacy, identity, and mind within the artificial. The power of the collective is undermined by the personalization of the web and threat of punishment due to virtual activity (which is now recorded and monitored) greatly reduces the capacity or willingness to utilize this tool as a means for implementing action. Further, if we are not able to use the Internet toward this end, yet it has replaced all other resources for communication and has become the ultimate in mass distraction — it has in fact, completely diminished our ability to organize or to generate social and political change.
Bondage of the willing
Peer pressure has demanded total transparency online. There is no distinction between the public and private and the notion of virtual discretion is an illusion. Traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions is very seriously threatened by the ability to instantaneously retrieve information associated with one’s personal life. The history of our virtual identity has become unforgiving and unforgettable, our actions are forever documented and preserved. Social networking sites have enticed the masses to constantly record up to date details about their lives in real time. Millions of people have willingly recorded and broadcast a timeline of their life, sharing personal photographs and including information about the day they were born, significant lifetime events, information about their hobbies, friends, families, and daily activities. This is voluntary womb-to-tomb surveillance. There is no private life. Further, your employer, family, and friends encourage and praise us for our participation online. This demand has inspired a trend toward total visibility and an elimination of secrecy. As a result, it has likewise forced us to censor ourselves. Our virtual histories enslave us to our past, the ability for potential employers, law enforcement, and family or community members to retrieve our personal information has made us willingly monitor ourselves and mentally regulate our thoughts.
This new reality has prompted a reversal of our basic human goals. Instead of the struggle for life, we struggle for non-existence. We present a fictionalized image of ourselves while we simultaneously desire to disappear. Individually, many who dislike the notion of total visibility seek to be hidden and insist on the right not-to-be-seen. This is the un-creation of the selves, the virtual death. The created personhood is destroyed under the blow and impact of reality. Behind each image that is represented in the virtual, there is a fearful, private person. We disappear behind our images. We must give up our secrets.
Exploit, distort, and exist
The ultimate human ambition is in the preservation of our existence. Although we have been provided the opportunity to pursue other endeavors when our basic needs have been met, we must not forget that this is our primary obligation. The rapid integration of a symbolic-reality in place of true-reality threatens our existence. Our present condition is perverse and unnatural. We no longer participate in the preservation of our selves. We are disengaged from the things we consume, from the violence and needs of humanity and from the power of our spirits. Technology has the advantages of convenience and entertainment but cannot provide the pleasures and needs or our natural selves. People are now closer to their machines and further away from each other. We are becoming isolated from our communities and from the natural world. The modern person begs for a life of imitation and desires a counterfeit existence. We are reduced and transformed. Ideology and reality will soon begin to merge in a violent way. However, we are not saviors of fools nor are we liberators of the masses. Let those who choose a false reality drown in their futility and conceit.
This technology has become a religion to many, a way to the truth, an invented life force in which all other existence is dependent. However, we must not forget that technology is a tool; a servant to the self and to society, not a master. The virtual world consists of images of the real while disfiguring the real thing itself. This is a call to destroy your idols and experience reality as it is. There is no escape from the effects of the Digital Revolution, the technology is here to stay. Yet, we can exploit and distort these resources in whatever way we can. Do not trust representations. REALITY IS OUR RAPTURE. We will seek to destroy ourselves, in favor of life. We choose to be present, and to participate in the magnificence and burden of time. We must resist the noise and the perpetual rumor of the world. Resist the moral imperative of meaning through signification. DESTROY ALL FICTIONS. Do not settle for an abstraction of life but experience the full substance and power of existing. Our bodies are not crude images. The events of our lives are not components of a digital record. We will recover the true thing, the moment of real participation. We will resist co-occurrence of events in “real-time,” and the artificial will not take the place of the experience and progression of life. With purpose and vigilance we will suffer Time as it is, as a true marker of reality. The cruelty of man and the degeneration of our society is not to be attributed to a scapegoat or ignored, it will be confronted with reason and humility.
We are the implements of our will and it is our responsibility to recover true culture and community.
Refuse to participate! Refuse commodification!
REMAIN PRESENT AND EXIST. ACTION IS LIFE!
Originally written in 2012 for “Manufacturing Wars,” an independent magazine by Total Fucker Distro.