Life isn’t lived, through the end of a filter

Snapchat photos of author of the vice piece

Interesting piece from Vice about Snapchat camera shots, replacing standard photos. I tend to put snapchat in a similar category as Instagram which I’ve written about previously. I picked out some of the highlights…

Writer Arushi feels similarly, and has written about the way Snapchat has started to make people view themselves. “I’ve found myself becoming dependent on filters to validate my appearance in selfies on more occasions than one. Honestly, it scares me because that’s so screwed up,” she said over Twitter DMs. “We’d rather have a digitally obscured version of ourselves than our actual selves out there. It’s honestly sad, but it’s a bitter reality. I try to avoid using them as much as I can because they seriously cause an unhealthy dysphoria.”

“This behavior supports the vision that a social body—self objectified—is more relevant than the real felt body.”

Plus some questions about self-objectfication

New Girl

Dr. Giuseppe Riva, a professor of communication psychology at the Catholic University of Milan, told VICE that social media activity promotes self-objectification. “This is particularly true for Snapchat and Instagram, which provide a mirror-like vision of young women, which is also altered and shared,” he said. “This behavior supports the vision that a social body—self-objectified—is more relevant than the real felt body.”

Those taking Snapchat selfies aren’t just experiencing the effects themselves. Talullah, from Kent, described how men were starting to believe that Snapchat-filtered photos were accurate portrayals of the people in them. “Some guys I speak to say stuff like, ‘You don’t look like your Snaps,'” she explained. “It’s like, ‘Dude, I’m not walking around with a headband of sparkly stars around my head.'”

These apps are too new for any proper scientific studies to have been carried out on the potential long-term consequences for some users. But Dr. Riva flagged eating disorders, alongside body dysmorphic disorder, as possible effects. “Self-objectification—thinking about and monitoring the body’s appearance from an external observer’s perspective—is the largest contributor to both the onset of eating disorders and its maintenance. This is what we discovered in our research,” he told me.

I mentioned on a work slack how much I find people who use Snapchat and Instagram filters on dating profiles close to deplorable. It sounds harsh but I feel like they are deliberately trying to deceive (consciously or unconsciously).

Of course I find dating sites partly responsible for encouraging people to connect their instagram accounts, in the hope they can ram-raid another pool of personal data. The whole thing feels misguided and maybe irresponsible. Another thing I read shared from a colleague at work, might start to explain how these things are held up and thought to be a good idea.

…mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.

The problem is the rest of us are just ignoring the “disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today’s social media platforms” or we can’t be bothered to think deeply about this all? Although as I’ve said before, there is a massive industry wanting to keep the thinking that way.

Suddendly the term “disconcerting sociological phenomena” seems a lot more apt…!

Ambient intimacy the new loneliness?

A few weeks ago I took part in the eye contact experiment in Sheffield. The purpose was to connect with a fellow human being in a way we usually avoid in modern society.

I have already wrote about the use of Mobile technology in Japan and crossed it with the selfie craze. But I have to admit although the selfie/narcissism was bad. There was a low level almost ambient undertone to the silence of people looking at rectangular LCD screen.

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else?

Sounds familiar right? Some people have been calling it ambient intimacy, something I heard a lot time ago but hadn’t really stop and thought about.

I  forgot the term, which I saw as the logical conclusion of what I saw in Japan and seeing to a lesser degree here. I first wrote about it when listening to Leisa Reichelt talking at the future of webapps 2007.

This thought catalogue piece sums up quite a bit is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

I was talking to a friend recently and she was telling me about the massive effect grindr is having on the gay men of Manchester. The once vibrant gay village of canal street is now full of hen parties and hetrosexual men chasing them. The gay men so addicted to the new reality of grindr, they don’t waste time meeting/socialising down canal street, when there is a sea of faces and other parts of the body on the comfort of your screen. Of course there is human contact but its short lived, fleeting but also highly charged and very exciting.  If its not, don’t worry theres other fields to go explore and why not?

This is something I talked about during my ragged talk.

In years, decades to come will we see the ambient intimacy the same way as we see smoking now? Or if Adrian Hon is right, eating meat?

I’m confident that in a hundred years, eating meat will be regarded in the negative way we now view racism or sexism – an ugly, demeaning, and unnecessary act. Like smoking, it will simply fall out of fashion because we’ll find better and healthier alternatives, although we’ll still occasionally eat humanely reared-and-killed animals. Note that I still eat meat even though I should know better.

If there was one picture which sums up this slow backlash, it has to be this one… removed.


As the author says…

The joining of people to devices has been rapid and unalterable. The application of the personal device in daily life has made tasks take less time. Far away places and people feel closer than ever before. Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves.

I saw it a while ago but frank reminded me of the picture while we were talking about the eye contact event.

There was a number of talks at Thinking Digital Manchester which strayed deep into this area., including our own workshop.  Authenticity was the word of the moment. Be yourself and talk with a human voice. Something the Cluetrain Manifesto talks a lot about.

I have bounced back and forth and about this whole thing, creating many revisions (62 to be honest) and drafts of this blog post.

Part of me wonders if this is just the new reality and I’m actually just getting old?

Who couldn’t be excited by the new possibilities to be connected to many people at the same time? Jason Silva called itcollapsing geography with cellphone wormholes. However this also pulls us out of the moment (must finish reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock) creating physical barriers with the people we spending time with. Maybe its the intent or even the lack of intent which is the problem?

Like checking your phone at the table, your subconscious intent is that the current situation isn’t interesting enough to fully engage? Or a sign we feel strangely lonely?  The fear of missing out is a double edged sword, and is a really strong motivator in this all. Then throw in the paradox of choice and you have a recipe for long term problems. This is what I thought when I first heard the term present shock to be honest.

Mozfest Global Village

This was some of the motivation behind a short pathway of two great sessions at Mozfest 2015. Hacking Mental Health: Changing Views in Tech and Happiness in the digital era. (reminds me of  The Practice of Happiness workshop by Bobby Paterson at Thinking Digital 2011). We even ran our own eye contact experiment in the crazy space of Mozfest.

Eye contact at Mozfest Global Village

With all this playing on my mind (and the fact its a link between all the events over the last few weeks)…

I bought a copy of Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. I decided enough with the drafts, I’m putting this thought on hold for a further blog post or maybe a discussion some day?

The spotlight effect in times of the #selfie?


Having a great little conversation with Alexandra deschamps-sonsino about how she doesn’t like watching herself giving talks and presentations. I expect that applies to most of us (including myself), but I did say this could be the the spotlight effect in full effect?.

…we tend to overestimate how much our actions and appearance are noticed by others, something social psychologists call the “spotlight effect.”

Alex had a look at the wikipedia page about the effect and asked me how does this work with the craze for selfies?

I was totally stumped… I have no idea but some PhD research student needs to look into this… Seems like a fruitful area of research? I’m sure Sherry Turkle (again) would have lots to say about this.