Text By Vlad Rebrov
Portrait of a Person in The Digital Age
Humanity has always been aware of some imperfection of existence and sought to develop an impeccable model of the world order. The first utopia appears already in Plato. Subsequently, the idea of an ideal society was developed by such thinkers as Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, Francis Bacon, Marx and Engels and others. Naturally, none of them offered anything really effective. Nowadays, reading these fantasies is curious and a little funny.
The word “utopia” has become synonymous with the impossible. However, it doesn’t stop some people stop dreaming about an ‘ideal world’. Let’s say this world can’t be redrawn, what then? Then we start dreaming about creating a new one. People came up with the idea of virtual reality.
Already in the 60’s of the 20th century, the science fiction writer Stanislav Lem described a different reality, which would not be inferior to normal, but would, at the same time obey other laws. And in the 80’s in the trilogy “Cyberspace” William Gibson builds a virtual world that is incredibly similar to the Internet, before it became ubiquitous.
With the emergence of social networks in the 10s of the 21st century, it is safe to say that what they described came to life. Of course, reality was, in some ways more prosaic than the poetry of fantastic digital cities, but in others it was even more interesting.
For several millennia, existence has remained virtually unchanged. Man had a physical and spiritual body. With the advent of the Internet, which became a full-fledged space for existence, a virtual body appeared. Social networks, which initially served as a method of supporting communication with loved ones and getting to know other people, have become the Foundation of hyperreality. There was a significant split. A person is no longer only what we see before our eyes, but now it is also a collection of their profiles on the Internet. What exactly it puts out, how it behaves, on which sites it is registered. Often the person inhabiting reality is very different from the hyper-reality experience of the same individual. It's hard to tell which of these two characters is the real ‘them’.
How do I identify them and what does “real” mean? Facebook and Instagram are where we re-construct our own appearance, piece by piece assembling a mosaic of our personal image, we permit others to visualize our musical and cinematic tastes on Soundcloud and transfer a piece of consciousness to the Internet thanks to Twitter. This is how we see ourselves or how we would like to see ourselves. Is this less real than what we appear to people in reality?
On the one hand, it is reasonable to assume that this phenomenon of virtuality has fully integrated into our being and has now become just another facet of human life. The Internet is populated by millions of ideal projected selves and studying them from the point of view of psychology is incredibly interesting. A person can document every detail of their life in detail and authentically, be present on social networks anonymously, or keep to themselves, ignoring the world wide web. Any of these actions can significantly characterize it.
Virtuality has really emerged, has taken shape as a phenomenon in the sense that now even ignoring it becomes a reaction, since hyperreality is all-encompassing and somehow present in everyone's life. There is no dichotomy between the real and the virtual. They organically coexist and complement each other. There is no need to be categorical here, you do not need to choose one of the sides of the coin.
But on the other hand, it may seem that hyperreality is not enough of this status quo. It raises the question of reality in General in a new way and makes our position more precarious than ever. The virtual is too attractive and consumes more and more of our time. Is the result a dangerous imbalance? Is there any danger at all when being absorbed by the virtual?
What is reality and how real is everything that happens to us? Previously, we could only question this in theory. Now a person creates a mirror image of reality with their own hands, while having the ability to seriously distort it, influence it. The ideal “I” that already rests in the depths of our subconscious, suddenly takes on weight. A few pixels or kilobits, a bit of information. And this is already apparent, and thus seems can be seen as real, without any of the conventional labels like ‘fiction’ or ‘myth’, and it is broadcast to the whole world, it is seen potentially by millions of other people.
The real self and the ideal no longer exist in each other; they are presented externally in the same detail. So, which of these is really true? The original set of characteristics, spontaneously given by default, or a manually created portrait that meets the author’s feelings? Chaos or creativity? Hyperreality can be utopian, because it is populated by ideal people, the characters that their avatars from the so-called reality would like to see themselves as.
This once again highlights the ambivalence of the person.?? Internet information exists on a par with life, with what we call reality. But the term “reality” itself loses its meaning. To say that a person in the refraction of being is more real than a person in the refraction of the virtual is to underestimate him, to ignore an essential part of his personality.
The boundary between the real and the virtual has always been extremely fuzzy. But now it is completely erased.
Where should it be drawn and does this border have the right to exist? This is the question that a truly new formation has to answer. Homo virtual?