digital indoctrination

by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2016)

"Man is the animal that makes pictures of himself, and then comes to resemble the pictures" - Iris Murdoch

Sitting on a park bench I surrender myself to the sounds of the city beyond this small sanctuary of trees, flower beds and narrow dirt paths which meander throughout an urban garden.
Cherish empty space.
Be still.


I am unable to reconcile my relationship with the world around me when engaged in digital intoxication, indoctrination, during this age of screens. Inevitably it leaves me feeling uncalibrated. Constant contact slowly consumes me as i lose propriety of my thoughts and actions through persistent interruptions leaving me feeling continuously unsynchronized; contemplation, self determination and systematic intention casualties in the battle for my attention through the manipulation of our psychological loop holes. I have been induced into a digital coma by these little black mirrors, and each time I emerge, my face no longer lite by a flickering screen, I am quietly aware I have been subjecting myself to a virtual sequence of hidden function command buttons determined to betray me and draw the focus of my mental landscape away from the present.

"Stimulation breeds the need for more stimulation, without it we feel antsy and unsatisfied."

Social media has evolved into manufactured spontaneity. I am unable to use it and find value in it without it reverse engineering and administering me. LifeLive becomes an orchestrated play acted out in front of the camera; recorded and distributed as manicured content carefully curated to reflect an image of uniqueness and identity justified by the fallacy narrative that we must express our individuality. The actualization of our true self being sold as the path to enlightenment, the road to happiness, as if differentiating ourselves through distinction, each i a unique snow flake, is the cure to loneliness and an answer to an apparent need to find meaning; when in fact it fuels the source of any depression, as reflections on the regrets of a past self, and erects pillars of anxiety, as we become detached from the present, borrowing time from tomorrow to worry about the possibility of disenfranchisement in the future. As if being special and unique will enable us to feel a sense of belonging. We belong when we come together engaged in common enterprise, as service to others. Constructive defiance. I am weary of the need to express my true self, "Be true to who you are" - the Mantra of the self help generation who are being told to look inwards to discover who we truly are, finding what we think we need to find and defining ourselves with labels now adhered to the image we choose to project. And yet these narratives are not us, rather they are a reflection of where we think we are at a particular time in our lives, and we risk disabling our ability to change and adapt by deciding and projecting "I'm the type of person that" when in fact we "have become the type of person that", the first suggests we are set in stone, the second acknowledges our capacity, through small incremental change, to shift our behaviour and the decisions we make, the actions we take, to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy complicit in the predetermined. Social media becomes an echo chamber to "this is the way I am" and "this is what I believe" reenforcing and entrapping us in an un-malleable image of true self.

In 'the nature that emerges from the decree' "just as the world itself is fragmented, we are too. Instead of thinking of ourselves as single, unified selves who we are trying to discover through self-reflection, we could think of ourselves as complex arrays of emotions, dispositions, desires, and traits that often pull us in different and contradictory ways. When we do so, we become malleable. We avoid the danger of defining ourselves as frozen in a moment in time".