Faces, Spaces and Social Graces

I saw a movie in 2009 that provoked deep thoughts that I’ve been mulling over for months. The movie is “Surrogates” starring Bruce Willis. “Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop (Willis) is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates.”

Bruce Willis It is a movie worth seeing just to challenge your mind. It was clear that the real people hiding behind the surrogates could do, say or be anything they wanted with no real consequences to their own person. The surrogates took the hits – or the pleasure for all actions. Humans could live a virtual life through the robots (who were exact replicas of themselves) and control events by hooking themselves up to a complex set of computerized high-tech equipment in their homes, where the architects of their robot creations became inactive, reclusive, obsessive, and unfulfilled. The Robots appeared to have way more fun (or pain) than their human counterparts – they were the ones living life! As I watched the movie unfold (you have to see it) I began thinking about real life as it is today and the obsession with social networks, where one can live a kind of virtual life online, from home or on mobile phone.

I admit I’m fascinated by Social Networks, not because I’m addicted – I don’t HAVE to have my daily FB fix – but I do enjoy staying connected to friends and mutually sharing photos. Family and close circle of friends is quite another matter to me – I’d rather connect face to face or phone to phone.Give me personal over virtual every time. Oh joy – the phone rings – a real live friend!  

What is more compelling and interesting to me is how my mind correlated social networks and the “surrogates” movie. There are certain similarities.

social-networkingIn Surrogates, the humans control their robot-self to do, say or be anything they choose. On a social network you can also choose to be authentic or you can be that OTHER person – maybe your alter-ego. If nothing else you can morph into and project the person you’d like to be, but aren’t in real life!

I have a profile and a business page on facebook so over time I’ve observed some fascinating things. I just love human nature in all its glory so it doesn’t take much to capture my attention. Bear in mind the comments that follow are mere observation, and non-judgmental of course, lest anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion and thinks I’m singling someone out. With a few hundred “friends” there are adequate numbers from which I have observed behavior trends. While I’m no expert, I have noted certain social graces exist with patterns of postings that fit into “groups” as I will illustrate below.

I‘ve noticed there are those who set up a profile and never comment about themselves and rarely post anything except for the occasional response to a friend’s post. I think of these as the “voyeurs” who quietly enjoy viewing what their friends are up to but rarely contribute their own news. Then there are the voyeur cousins – the “likers”, who “like” all their friend’s comments, but hardly ever post their own. At the other extreme are those who post every single detail of their life with hourly updates on their whereabouts and activities. I call them the “entertainers” – the look-what-we’re-doing-crowd – and thank goodness for them, the news feed would be so boring without their continuous chatter.

Some prefer to use their social networks to play games and build farms, sororities or you name it. They’re always requesting an item to enhance their game or win more points – I call these the “gamers”. Personally, I don’t do games, so I delete the apps.  I apologise to those who invite me to play – I just don’t!  Actually that’s not entirely true – I play my own solo game!  It’s called “zap the app”. Cousins to gamers are the “listeners” – the ones who provide us with their favorite music videos. Now where would we be without music to delight our ears and feed our souls?

The “promoters” convey an obvious agenda – they’re all about business with a constant drip of marketing products or services in every post….some more frequently than others. Personally I have to apply restraint not be one of those since I really love what I do and am passionate about sharing it. But neither do I want to be seen as a pest and have friends “hide” me, so I try not to bombard the news feed with business commercials.

I would be remiss if I missed the “defenders” – these are the friends who bravely pronounce their faith in bible verses or continuous expressions of their political persuasion. I tend to avoid commentary on both these topics even though passionate about my own beliefs. I’m not indifferent – just choose to focus my own comments on other matters.

The most amusing posts to me are from “pretenders”. Those with a virtual bravado that isn’t evident in their real life! They say things they wouldn’t say to another person face to face. They show pictures online they’d never think to hand to a friend to view in person and reveal things they’d never share at a meeting attended by hundreds of people, even if all were friends. Alas, I’ve even seen the “F” word (no it isn’t “facebook”) on friends of friends posts. This leads to the “foulers” who vomit four-letter swear words or profanity for shock effect. Reminds me of the people who permit their dog to foul their neighbors yard with unwanted deposits. Sadly the “foulers”  limited vocabulary is exceeded only by their lack of social graces. 

What about the “posers” – those who post a celebrity picture or cartoon character as their profile. The photos of “posers” are very interesting and telling! The “posers” often morph into “pretenders” in the flash of a camera – pretending to be sexy, with exaggerated pouched out gold-fish lips, or striking some other weird pose that isn’t really who they are. Isn’t it great that social networks provide a forum through which we can play “pretend” and pass ourselves off as anyone we want – or aspire to be – or not to be!

I must admit I am guilty of this next one! I love to read inspiring books of self-help and personal growth, so I can’t help myself quote words of wisdom at times. The “quoters” cannot resist sharing their favorites from celebrities, writers, philosophers and others. Having an arsenal of quotes is something I love, but could potentially drive my social network friends crazy.

Did I forget anyone? Oh yes the “whiners” – those who bemoan their lot in life with haunting words of sorrow, regret and self admonishment. But the “whiners” need not fear, for surely one of the “encouragers” or “cheerleaders” (of which I am both) will be compelled to live out their “saver” instincts, and post words of encouragement or inspiration. The “whiners” might even prompt the “hiders” out of seclusion to make a phone call!  The “hiders” are those who you just saw post an entry, so you know they’re around and you make a quick call to chat. Bingo – nowhere to be found. Don’t answer the phone and don’t even respond to your voice mail message! Avoiding you? Hiding out? You’ll never know – they simply vanished into oblivion. Last but not least are the “collectors” who accumulate “friends” whether they truly fit the description of friends, or just acquaintance, barely known to them or completely unknown entities. Interesting!

We live in a fascinating world of online social networks that social-networking-addictionreveal much about ourselves our friends and human nature. Participating in social media affirms us – and confirms we are very social creatures – online if not in reality. We are all “inters” – we are interconnected and interdependent. Where would we be without this media?

So, are we the human being behind the surrogate, or is there a surrogate behind the human being?

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