The Company We Keep

Social Media. It seemed like a good idea, and maybe at its heart, it is. But the state of it now, the sheer presence of it in our lives, feels vaguely corrosive to me. I am not a technophobe, I am not a luddite, but lately, I feel it would be a good idea to scale back on it entirely. I know some people online only - I have never met them, yet I've known them for years. This is not a bad thing, but it is somewhat odd. Other friends I haven't seen for years, some in decades, and through the bizarre lens of social media, they become abstracted, approximations of people you once knew and now are distilled to a few lines a week.

The most egregious thing about it all is, despite its moniker, it is anything but social! It does not bring people together, it keeps them isolated, more often than not. It maintains a level of familiarity with anyone you are connected that becomes "sufficient" and so personal connection, literal socialization is not as vital or wanted as it used to be. I have friends I used to see, to be with, who now only write through social media. If I pulled the plug and took myself off this grid, they would likely disappear from my life entirely.

The other trend, a malicious one, is a growing air of majority opinion slaying the independent thought, first through language policing, and lately, content policing. This word is not appropriate, this content is offensive. A dangerous slope, and we are already sliding down the precipice. The content you choose to share is used to condense you to a category, a type, a generic label assigned to you in the mind of everyone who sees your contributions to this increasingly vacuous cloud of chatter.

In the last twenty years, the internet has largely supplanted our need for human contact by giving us an isolated, pseudo-social experience. It becomes a go-to for sex or sexuality, for boredom, for complaining, for lying, for friendship or a dim reminder of what that once meant. I do not exempt myself from any of this - I have my presence online as much as anyone and more than some. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way about it. The substitution of quality time, of in-person exchanges and bonding is becoming wholly unsatisfying to me, and I would rather be without it at this point.

My image depicts a man clearly alone, in an empty space, hooking into his drug, his connection to the outside world. Signs of an interface for direct access of sorts can be seen on his forehead and even replacing his genitals, a grim metaphor for a future where actual physical contact and pleasure have become quaint and dismissed altogether. Certainly this is a pessimistic view of social media and its role in our daily lives, but I would not be the first person to express a concern with integrating too much technology into our humanity. I see the value in social media for sharing art, for sharing music, for keeping in touch with an audience, but I am learning that the person I am is not really in line with the content the majority has deemed acceptable.

We need to keep it light, we need to always be positive, we need to show our meals in bad overhead photos, we need to post treacly MEMES that read like a sappy cat posters, but real feelings, insights, personal experiences that have any weight, are discouraged and criticized. If you, like me, feel increasingly judged and marginalized lately, perhaps that's due to the company we keep, and where we choose to keep it.

Michael Bilotta
August 19, 2015