Aura And Social Media

The world has undergone many changes since Walter Benjamin wrote “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in 1936.While the notion of art has retained many of the same qualities discussed by Benjamin, there are aspects that have been added that were beyond his imagination. Photography, in particular, has advanced tremendously. Today, photography is commonplace and anybody can be photographer provided they have a smartphone.

A smartphone allows everyone to represent themselves on social media and to see the representations of others. Walter Benjamin said, “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” . With this in mind, individuals’ representations of the themselves online is not a perfect reproduction of the original. Benjamin felt that mechanical reproductions of art lost the “aura” of the original, “One might subsume the eliminated element in the term ‘aura’ and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art” . In the same way that reproduction withered the aura of the original artwork, social media representations could potentially whither the representation of a person.

On apps like Instagram and Snapchat, users can choose for their image to only last a certain amount of time before it cannot be viewed anymore. Apps like these have caused The Selfie to become rampant in society. The Selfie is now seen as a popular form of self expression. The Selfie contains the aura of the original and breaks the gap between people. Benjamin said, “the desire of contemporary masses to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction” . Today, the masses use social media to close the spatial divide. However, an individual’s online representation may taint their aura because it is another form of mechanical reproduction that only carries the essence of the original.