There Is No Real World Anymore
The real/virtual collapse, puritanism, and why everyone hates The Idol.
A recent drunken conversation at a house party landed on the topic of TikTok, as one of the people in the conversation was slightly TikTok famous. Half of the conversers were in their early or mid-20s, which I am not. I, perhaps predictably, complained that it felt unfair to me to be expected to always have a phone in front of my face, to act out for the world like I’m auditioning for a play. That as a writer I wanted an online audience, but that as a 30-something-year-old I didn’t want to debase myself to get one.
To which they responded: this isn’t debasing. It’s freeing. You can do whatever you want on here. You can be whoever you want. Maybe just embrace that.
This was a perspective I hadn’t really heard before. That they weren’t just chasing engagement or likes or whatever, but that they actually found some kind of joy in the performance, that holding up a phone as you walk down the street or lie in your bed or see a concert or whatever isn’t only expected, but part of the point of whatever experience you happen to be having.
Two-thirds of teens are on the app, and one in six say they use it nearly constantly. Which, I think, points to a change in how we need to see social media: it’s not only that people have begun consuming more social media, it’s that our lives have fused with it. There is no online vs. offline, no basement to be in vs. grass to touch.
We have become the media we consume.