In 2009, image based social media gained popularity and become deeply intertwined with consumer culture. As a direct result, a new social hierarchy has emerged among people under thirty-five in developed capitalist countries. Status and success are based firstly on an individual’s popularity digitally. It has less to do with initial monetary wealth, and more to do with playing the game of the internet right. Below, I have provided a visual of the social structure of Instagram for your reference, it is called “The IRL Hierarchy”:
The IRL Hierarchy* has lead to the FOMOTBFAMM (Fear of Missing Out to Become Famous and Make Money) phenomenon. This is a relatively new and obscure theory, and you may not fit the age bracket to have experienced it, so I have a few real life examples for you:
EXAMPLE A: A few years ago, I walked in on my boyfriend’s roommate shooting an infomercial for Trongs™ in their living room. Trongs are essentially gripped gloves for your fingers while you eat finger food, their logo says “Get the fork outta here.” I thought, “Wow, that is dumb.” Earlier this year I saw that Trongs went viral. I shared the link on my Facebook page. I’m a little upset I threw out the free ones they gave to me and that I doubted the possibility for success in the internet age.
EXAMPLE B: Last week a middle school teacher on medical leave picked up me up for an Uber ride to the airport and pitched him his new invention: The Kanga. It is a sweatshirt that has electrical heaters in the forearms and stomach. He said Amazon just approved him as a seller and he applied to be on Shark Tank. Because of experience in Example A and subsequent FOMOTBFAMM, I think this might be a good investment.
EXAMPLE C: Because of Example A and B, I believe it is possible that I could have more success in life as a Youtuber who unboxes chewing gums from around the world and gives reviews on its elasticity, stickiness, and bubble blowing potential (I actually might do this, so please don’t steal it from me). The earning potential for a notable Youtuber far surpasses most well-known contemporary artists. You can find me at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCege5zLhPUblx-8ra_kVbg. I only have 38 views on my two videos, so if you and the person sitting next to you could view it and subscribe to my channel, that would really help me out in getting some free bubble gum to jump start my career.
Researchers have linked the sociological effects of current social media usage to an increased diagnosis of the Wolf-Schmidt Syndrome, also referred to as LMS (Like Me Syndrome). According to WebMD, LMS is a compulsive desire to check one’s phone for social interaction. It is caused by dopamine surge that occurs when an individual receives a text, “like”, answers an e-mail, etc. The dopamine surge subsides after a few seconds, causing the brain to desire another. Common symptom include anxiety, giddiness, muscle twitching (painless), compulsive behavior, delusions, difficulty concentrating, impaired social skills, and repetitive behaviors.*¹
If you haven’t realized it yet, this writing so far is like everything I’ve been telling you about. It’s somewhere between fact, fiction, reality, virtual, Instagram, Amazon, Herbalife and made up bullshit. We can all be pseudo scientists and create fictional diseases and present them as fact on this marvelous platform. We can all take an image and curate it into perfection. We can take any information, wherever it started in the realm of what we consider reality and create fictitious histories.
For example, I was in a bar bathroom and there was toilet paper rolls hanging from the ceiling by chain and wire. There was a padlock holding it all together. I took a picture and posted it on my Instagram, so I could share the most beautiful and interesting object I saw all day. That digital image and the object became one. They are the same thing for everyone who sees my photograph show up on their feed. The Instagram post is the clear gloss finishing coat on the most perfect object in 2017.
also recently put my phone in a waterproof case and turned on the video recorder. I attached it to a fishing pole and cast it into an abandoned pool full of murky water. It was a sunny day so the illumination of the water made the footage look like I was snorkeling off the coast of somewhere desirable and Insta-worthy. So I uploaded the footage into my stories and I’m on a #vacation in #libson #portugal. Friends and family DM’d me about the trip, jealous they weren’t there, a case of traditional FOMO, some of them might have been experiencing FOMOTBFAMM, all of them showing warning signs of LMS. It is the space between virtual and reality, where documentation is manipulated by context, hashtags, cropping, filters, and presentation to the point that it becomes something in between.
The way we navigate society is through technology. We are living in the moment of convenient applications: Amazon does our shopping; Facebook lets us share information to all our friends at once; Instagram shows the world what we see; Uber gives us a ride from one location to the next; and WebMD diagnosis our illnesses. We are the objects in this large system of information sharing, and we participate because it makes our lives easier and there is a potential for gain. It is not that we lack awareness that the information being presented is filtered and manipulated through corporate gain and fed back to us as targeting believable truths, we do. Yet we still interact with it in absurd ways, simultaneous free-laborers and objects to be bought and sold in digital consumer capitalism; to each other and corporations.
Behind the billions of likes and shares is a loop we are stuck in - between the user, the technology, the maker, the viewer, the information, and the corporation. My practice is based on taking those interactions and deconstructing and rearranging them in an equally-illogical way to re-present it to the viewer. I use search histories, YouTube videos, online best seller lists, Facebook, and Instagram to inform the making of physical object and videos and then use the same technology (i.e. computers, phones, computer programs, applications) as methods of display to make the viewer feel implicated in the exchange of digital information.
There is no hierarchy in what materials I choose to work with, a cell phone video recording, screen shots, and cardboard boxes are of equal value in object making as any other traditional medium. I make things that are Youtube-beautiful. They are obviously made by hand with easily accessible materials and a too-literal sense of construction. It is about a utilitarian approach to the quickest path of completion. It is a direct reflection of the speed at which we currently demand objects to appear at our doorsteps. It is about making exactly what it sounds like without knowing what it is supposed to look like. It is about pretending the internet is always a valid source of information. It is about making the work subtly familiar and accessible to an audience so there is a potential to engage further. It is about re-presenting the interactions, not about providing answers. It is about the image and object being the same thing. It is about us as objects in a world of iPhones and Apps and Clouds. It is about the stealth manipulation of our digital selves being fed back to us.
*¹ WebMD does not endorse this writing and has no known knowledge of Wolf-Schmidt Syndrome or LMS.