The obsession with social ‘evidence’

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The obsession with social ‘evidence’

Smartphones are no longer just electronic devices; rather, they have become a part of our bodies and our identities.

“U-Turn,” a web cartoon written by comedian Yoo Sae-yoon, tackles the subject of smartphone addiction. It centers on a secret society called U-Turn, which is formed after people begin to suffer from “smartphone panic disorders” and “Wi-Fi allergy,” causing people to revert back to the days when smartphones were nonexistent.

Yoo is the story’s protagonist, and in each episode he includes a handwritten note about our digital culture. For example, he once wrote two posts on two separate social media sites - one about how happy he had been to play the character of a baboon, and another about his dislike of another subject. But the next day, online portals were filled with articles about how he disliked playing the baboon. And the conclusion of his experiment was that people only wanted to read sensational rants.

He also talked about his encounter with some young men at a bar. When the fans asked him to take a picture with them, Yoo said he was too drunk to pose for a photo and instead suggested having a drink together. But the men declined, saying they’d rather have a photo than a drink.

Yoo later wrote, “I would have wished to be a part of their memory rather than a record.”

It seemed that the young men thought it was more important to have “proof” of their meeting with Yoo on social media rather than to have a conversation with him.

Similarly, some people choose to take video and photos at concerts rather than enjoy them live. They believe projecting the image of having fun is more important than the concert itself, just like the young men who ran into Yoo. Social networks are a vast ground to show off photographic evidence. Even photos and posts about everyday life are a careful selection of what one feels is worth showing. People are constantly conscious of how others perceive them. American scholar Sonya Song argues that the psychological motivation for sharing on social media is “charged with emotions, bounded by self-image management and by concerns over relations with others.”

In fact, every social media user, including myself, knows it very well. But we don’t - and can’t - leave the world of social networking. There is so much “me” in the digital world of smartphones, tablets and digital cameras, but we still feel profoundly lonely. We are being “social” without having true communication. It reminds me of an old song by A Poet and A Governor, “There are too many me in me, so there is no place for you to rest.”

The author is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 18, Page 35

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