Social media is neither a mirror nor a window — it’s both

Camilla Zuleger
Nov 7, 2019 · 3 min read

We have the power to shift our gaze in our sometimes blind and blinding use of social media.

These days, nothing can get a debate going like the topic of how social media has influenced our everyday lives — in good and bad ways. Some days, I clearly see both the democratic and social threats posed by the constant flow of manipulation in our pocket. On others, I try to imagine how my life would be without. The only thing that would have remained is probably the fact that I was a #crazyplantlady long before I learned the word hashtag.

The debate is interesting because it’s about so much more than politics. It’s about our perception of reality, as the October issue of Brand Eins thematised. And especially one article has lingered with me: the interview with the media and art critic Boris, who I’ve happily read in my university days. He says:

“The internet is not a window to the world, it’s a mirror, in which we only ever see ourselves, our own interests, wishes, desires. It’s an entirely narcissist matter. (…) The internet doesn’t create communication and exchange, but a fragmentation of society, a sort of autism.”

As a person in the world, who has become a part of so many great things and made beautiful friendships not just with the help of, but entirely because of the internet, I couldn’t help but feel attacked. Did I always seek out the people like me on the internet? Was this a result of narcissism?

And yes, I did, and yes, it was. But it’s not the full story. The fact that people seek out kinship online is no different from our experiences in the three-dimensional world. But the thing about windows is that their function can be double-sided. Look at them one way, with a blurred gaze on a dark night and they’re are a mirror. But on a clear day on which you woke up with a new lust for life, they present you with the world outside. Just as it is — #nofilter.

We’re all in this together

As with any new technology or invention, the thing in itself will not be the solution; but the way we use it can change the world.

So, here’s my suggestion. Instead of discussing good vs bad in an inevitable development, seek out the good it has to offer: defy the ads and go find new people — on your own, not by suggestion of the algorithm — who will let you experience the world from a different perspective. Use your power as a consumer of social media wisely, and turn the powerful, and sometimes seemingly out of control, mechanism into a tool, instead of weapon.

And, if you want to go offline entirely, read the works of Boris Groys — there’s a reason even the smallest quote by him is worth discussing.

Camilla Zuleger
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