Intimate moment

Above: Intimate feelings. Credit: Starflames.


Writing in 1931, critic Walter Benjamin cautioned that, "the sense of the-sameness-of-things-in-the-world has grown to such an extent that by means of [photo-]reproduction, even the unique is made to yield up its uniqueness." The photo-reproduction still converts highly personal experiences into shared-and-circulated images; such images are so profuse that they have become almost valueless. The cherished moment is not honored or held dear as evidence of one's "inmost nature" but is often squandered. Frittered away as an amusing social-media post. The amount of visual detail that many Instagram users share about their lives is such that their private lives become only theoretical: there is nothing at all that they hold to be hallowed and protected as absolutely personal.

By choice and free will many social media users spurn the intimate, up to the point that all confidentiality is eradicated from daily life. Such destruction of privacy is perverse--so many prisoners and refugees long for some morsel of life that is not overlooked and recorded. The incremental reduction of privacy is, of course, a basic technique of dehumanization and an ordinary component of totalitarianism--from the authoritarian State to the cult-based community.

If such sharing of the details of one's life were imposed-and-demanded it would be the horrifying demand of an authoritarian figure or regime--Orwell's Big Brother for example. But the current context is actually more troubling: on Instagram, intimacy is handed-over-and-given-up without hesitation in the all-consuming quest for likes and a temporary increase in the attentiveness of one's followers.

(28 January 2018)