i have seen many people spill their guts on-line, and i did so myself until, at last, i began to see that i had commodified myself. commodification means that you turn something into a product which has a money-value.
Carmen Hermosillo: Pandora’s Vox: On Community in Cyberspace (1994)
Black Mirror is hard to watch. It seems to know me so well. It sidles up and puts an avuncular hand on my shoulder, guides me to the side of the darkened room and gives me a drink, slaps me on the back and makes me a co-conspirator in its jokes. “You’re just like everyone else you smug prick,” it tells me. “A participant in the cluster fuck we like to call social media.”
Season 1, Episode 2 is about the commodification of everything; even pure eviscerating rage with a jagged piece of glass to its throat. “That would make a good regular spot on my stream,” someone thinks, and so it becomes. Click on Genre: Outraged and select from the options: black guy with jagged glass? Or ISIS does a version. You can watch their outrage porn: their beheadings, their immolations.
Carmen Hermosillo had it all pegged in 1994. An internet Cassandra:
i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to, and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment. that means that i sold my soul like a tennis shoe and i derived no profit from the sale of my soul.
Liberation on the internet is voluntarily allowing yourself to surveilled. Diversity on the internet is white, male diversity. It’s pretty perspicacious stuff in 1994. 22 years later people wonder who will read their digital fingerprints in the future and ask them questions, 22 years later – once a month – someone who is not white and male is driven off a social media platform.
And sometimes out of a complex event spanning years a single image is pulled and “goes viral”.
What does it mean? *click* What should I do? *click*
On the other hand, no. On the other hand: only if you accept that. You could instead find yourself drawn away from that corner of the darkened room where the conspiratorial cynics push each other’s buttons, and you could take another path. You could be led to the next room where there is another energy, and challenging things are happening, where you are disorientated, and out of place, and not the centre, where your views are not wanted, or appreciated, and you just need to shut up and listen. In that place you might use the internet as a way to escape yourself, and your norms, and knock down some of those walls that make an echo chamber of the ideologies you call your identity.
One of the errors of social media might be basing it on friendship. Basing it on friendship seems to perpetuate silos, and being inside a silo you will notice a great echo. I try to climb out and I can tell you that it’s hard. It feels almost physically hard to finish a whole article that supports the idea that arming America is a good idea (good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns). It feels confusing listening to a podcast by two African American women who see things, and say things I don’t get. I don’t know what Islam means. I read, and I listen, but something is missing. I persevere.
If the internet is useful to me for anything, it is that it allows me to visit places I could never have gone before. Shut up and listen.
Shut. Up. And. Listen.