The media has become the message. In the same way that 9/11 became the last word in action thrillers, social media as an activity itself has become more meaningful than the creative works it carries. The developed world has taken social media to its collective breast, and in the same way that photocopying devalued painting and literature in the twentieth century, all modes of artistic expression are similarly threatened now.
Think about your Facebook Newsfeed, or whichever other network you use (though let’s be honest, it’s probably #Facebook). Most people are far more likely to engage with a short witticism by a good friend, virtual or otherwise, than spend time on digesting any manner of shared creativity. Time is of the essence here. Few have the time or inclination to properly engage with work which hasn’t been made hugely popular by public relation campaigns, and if they do they are very quickly deemed OCD nerd types.
The result of this Silicon Valley reshaping of culture is a fluid existentialism in blue and white. A thousandth generation copy of Munch’s The Scream being shared by your cousin’s best friend, usually with some kind of comic manipulation, will skim by as quickly as a YouTube video of the amateur covers band you saw at your local last weekend. You will click like on both, less for the content than for a feeling of communal support, in the subconscious hope that they will both like your vegetarian themed meme, coming soon.
The whole process between logging in and logging out - if one ever does - is now virtual life as art. This is not necessarily good or bad, it just is what it is. Oscar Wilde would be proud, if as confused as everyone else. Social media has become a million micro communities, buoyed along by the accumulation of likes, occasional argument (increasingly polite), and curtain-twitching studies of the human psyche. If time is of the essence, so is age here. The old school, so insistent on the pragmatic actuality of things, is forced to witness Zuckerberg and Co. redefining culture and trade in zero hours meritocracy which the soundbite-addicted millenials lap up so fleetingly.
Add to this hand-wringing angst the fact that the art that is so feted now was always a capitalistic public relations job in taste propaganda, and we witness a socialistic debasement of everything. The Emperor’s clothes are lying all over the floor, and algorithmic nihilism is the norm. Philosophically and politically speaking, this existential, virtual culture is far healthier, inasmuch as fluidity of mental behaviour is healthy. If you are the kind of person who thinks that ‘separation anxiety’ (i.e. missing someone) is a psychological problem, you probably also wouldn’t mind if you’d never heard The Beatles. And if you’d missed them in your newsfeed, you wouldn’t know about it. #Apple #Google