My ideas for blog posts often come to me like second-rate debutantes, all coiffed and polished, but lacking a partner to usher them onto the dance floor and astound the audience with their grace.
The common theme I noted between the two?
What exactly is “reality”?
More specifically, is social media an alternate version of “reality” or is it simply an illusion (a dream within a dream, if you will) that we have given ourselves global permission to distort in order to fit our perception of what we’d like reality to be?
Welcome to the “Screenworld.”
“Screenworld” is simply a word Ventura uses to describe our world – a highly networked, virtual environment where “screens” (computers, TV’s, phones, kiosks, etc.) are one of the primary connection points for our interaction with other humans.
While pretty commonplace for most of us who live here, Screenworld is pretty foreign terrain for (historically, low-tech) psychotherapists to even consider visiting.
(For what is a greater antithesis to the hyper-connected, crowdsourced and stimulus-driven environment of social media than a therapist and client sitting together quietly in a room, face-to-face, trying to a gain deeper understanding of the human condition?)
Like it or not though, psychotherapists need to buy a ticket for the social media cluetrain because increasingly they will need to understand Screenworld in order to understand people.
As Ventura suggests, Screenworld isn’t a real world. It’s a distorted vision of the world. So, if we’re increasingly viewing the world through its warped lens, might it be distorting us in turn?
“As animals, we’re built to live in a physical world; in Screenworld, we’re living in something else. In our overlay of cyberspace and physical space, bodily reality is devalued, while the adage that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ gets distorted into ‘what the screen does not record or project is not really happening.’”
While I’ve pondered this phenomenon before, and agree that the lack of a physical connection in social media does distort reality, I’m not so sure I would go so far to say that it has replaced reality.
What I think it has done is augment reality in such a way that it suits the design of the engineer of the social experience – you and I.
And that opens a whole other can of worms.
The paradox in the inception.
While people like to go round and round unraveling the maze of dreams within dreams in Inception, what interested me most about the movie (especially in light of the magazine article) was the role of the Engineer (played by Ellen Page) in constructing dream layers.
In the movie, it was not critical for the Engineer to replicate the dreamer’s reality, but simply to suggest it. The dreamer’s perception of that reality would, in effect, fill in any blanks and complete the Engineer’s picture.
This is best illustrated in the paradoxes that existed on the seams of dreams (like the staircase in the movie that simply stops). We know that a staircase goes up or down. So, if we are presented with one that simply goes, our mind glosses over the lack of logic in that option and instead, defines it is as either up or down.
Our mind’s ability to incorporate a paradox into reality (or in fact, make a paradox reality) is problematic when it comes to social media.
In social media we, quite literally, see what we want to see. And, over time, we forget that what we have being viewing was never a complete picture to begin with.
Or as Ventura says in his article:
“In Screenworld, images of reality supersede reality itself, editing it, transforming it, playing with it in any fashion, until the source of the image ceases to matter while the image itself becomes all that matters.”
Our online social world feels whole, so therefore it is whole.
And that might be okay if we were just using social media to form connections. But we use social media to form relationships – relationships filled with love, hate, fear, envy, or joy.
What happens when those are built upon perceptions, too?
Perhaps that is the real danger of the Screenworld…what if it forgives us for ignoring the staircases at the edges of our world and rewards us for building our lives upon them instead?