Plato's Cave, Society of the Spectacle and the Silent Walk Movement
Great writing as usual, Kyla. In the spirit of over-simplifying from a 50 year old who had no internet before his 27th birthday, here's my dated take: Much of this is solved by turning off the screens and meeting with friends/family/humans in person, in a 1:1 setting, SIGNIFICANTLY more often than most urban Americans do today. Remove the pixels = remove the dopamine = remove the illusions.
Thanks for the philosophical musings and warnings, Kyla. The onslaught seems to have intensified significantly this year, in particular these past couple of weeks. Unplugging is needed more than ever, and source checking too. I feel like I'm in the middle of an information warfare battlefield, getting pulled in every direction.
In Hinduism, there's the concept of Maya which is very similar to the Spectacle - illusion and in Buddhism, there's 20 unwholesome factors that pretty much sum up my current twitter timeline https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_factors_(Buddhism)#Twenty_secondary_unwholesome_factors
I really love the quote "life imitates art way more, than art imitates life".
We all used to think that movies, pictures, music and poems are inspired on real life events and therefore they are always secondary. But more and more life choices and the society behaviour works otherwise: people want to live like movie characters, melancholically listening to sad songs in a bus, but holding impressive achievements at work worth being shot on 35mm.
I think a lot of us (if not all) are kinda stuck in this perception, and art (incl social media posts) is a guide to "live life" and "choose sides". How to live a life? Make it movie worthy. How to choose partner? It should be a romcom. How to divorce? It should be a sad song for a week. Maybe we wouldn't do it without an external example.
Great writing. I think Beaudrillard's concept of hyperreality is relevant here.
I'm in my 40s now and I've watched the internet evolve from geocities homepages and IRC into the algorithmic dopamine highway we have now.
At one point, the internet was an extension of IRL reality, but in the last few years it feels like real life is now an extension of internet reality.
You captured so well so much of what troubles me about today's internet.
Well written and insightful prose. The added digital layers of our reality have created entirely alternate playing fields....
This is so great, thank you. It's fantastic to have intelligent (and important!) ideas written about in a contemporaneous, and fun, way.
I briefly worked in trend forecasting, except it turned out to just another form of marketing (cue the famous Bill Hicks routine ringing in my ears...) and at the time consumers were wary of being fooled by advertising. It feels like the pendulum has swung the other way again, & Gen Z or whoever are happy to believe in all sorts of stuff.
That said, the reasons for this are stuff like a) the speed of life means short attention spans so no time to think about whether something is true or not, and b) the fact that it's quite not always straightforward to check a source. I'm from a family of journalists, so was lucky that source-checking & scepticism was built in to me. I don't know the best way of doing that to others.
Guy Debord and MrBeast - couldn't be more up my alley. One popular misconception or distorted lens to think about is the idea that the algorithm favours "certain thumbnails" or that the algorithm "rewards" the supernormal stimuli of overwrought and photoshopped uncanny smiles. It's way more accurate to say that PEOPLE click those thumbnails more often (and subsequently watch the video through) which then means the video's more likely to be distributed widely. What's happening, primarily, is that viewers are favouring those images, not the recommendation system itself. A subtle but crucial distinction.
>And so now it's the appearances of appearances. I'm consuming a certain amount of information, sure, but I'm also consuming how this information should be consumed.
Common Marshall McLuhan W, the medium is the message
love this!!! i teach macroeconomics AND philosophy so this is perfect. of course i love all of your macro/economics posts but it was great to see this in my inbox today. i will be sharing with my students - both classes. thanks!!!
Don't want to come off as a hater, cause I know my last comment was a bit mean-spirited, and I do enjoy your content. Just thought it would have been interesting if in the piece you had a section that dived into your own role in the "Society of the Spectacle" and how me and all your readers are subject to your perception of your own reading of reality. How that could be skewed by your own biases & readings, and what "illusions of truth" do you drape over others' eyes? And what "appearances of appearances" do you wear? Cause at the end, the same incentives that drive Mr Beast, drive you as well. The same algorithms that govern him, govern you as well. Again, not trying to be a hater, just thought it would've been an interesting introspective analysis.
What's scary is spending hours doomscrolling on Instagram and walking outside and having a weird sense that the real world feels "fake"... I wonder how much we are literally conditioning our brains to accept what goes on behind the screen as hardcore 3d reality... nice post! Also scary to see how much Instagram Reels content has improved in the last two years vis-a-vis TikTok and how that's driving FB's massive stock rebound
Maybe I’m weird but it seems like most people I interact with IRL are not very concerned about most of this. The terminally online have been told to go outside and touch grass for ages.
Like, Twitter isn’t real life and never has been? But for people who write for Twitter and media, social platforms are their world now, so it feels real. The rest of us don’t know what you are talking about.