Social Media and Post-Authenticity

What is the status of authenticity in the age of social media? I recently witnessed a small group of young tourists march onto a beach, stand by the water and take pictures of themselves appearing to have a good time, then leave immediately after--presumably off to another photo op. I myself have, at times, been more compelled by the images of my experiences—and what they convey about me, and the life I live—than the experiences themselves. I hear from other people that they feel the same to varying degrees. At what point does the act of representation surpass the act being represented? How much of our motivation for doing things—for doing anything at all—comes from the social validation we believe we’ll get when we tell others about it? When was the last time you did something amazing or important or accomplished something that you didn’t tell anyone about? (It’s been a long time for me!)

Perhaps this is nothing new (my observation of it certainly isn’t). For a long time, architectural critics have remarked on the fact that glossy design magazines like Dwell have incentivized architects to design photogenic architecture, whose actual experiential qualities leave much to be desired (I have a theory that this current in architecture has resulted in a dearth of small, dark, and/or labyrinthine architectural designs, because these do not photograph well--though we'll see whether 360º photographs change this). It is difficult to imagine the rise of spacious (vacuous?), minimalist architecture without photography, whose muse it has always been. (Perhaps for this reason, it is fitting that the iPhone is minimalist in design: the device that has encouraged everyone to make their lives more photogenic is itself designed to be quite photogenic.)

I wonder, though, if there’s a radical or progressive side of this accelerating experience modeling? Might our fictions about the lives we’re living and the experiences we’re having actually inspire the authentic pursuit of more intentional and/or experimental living? Can fictions inspire yet-unrealized realities? Can there be a kind of left-accelerationist desire creation machine that uses social media to generate post-capitalist, post-human, post-scarcity realities?