External Essay: The “IRL” Fetish

Hanging out with friends and family increasingly means also hanging out with their technology. While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.

I came across a great essay on the false separation between what we see as offline and online and the fetishisation of the offline…read on for more.

Facebook doesn’t curtail the offline but depends on it. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. The photos posted, the opinions expressed, the check-ins that fill our streams are often anchored by what happens when disconnected and logged-off. The Web has everything to do with reality; it comprises real people with real bodies, histories, and politics. It is the fetish objects of the offline and the disconnected that are not real.

Those who mourn the loss of the offline are blind to its prominence online. When Turkle was walking Cape Cod, she breathed in the air, felt the breeze, and watched the waves with Facebook in mind. The appreciation of this moment of so-called disconnection was, in part, a product of online connection. The stroll ultimately was understood as and came to be fodder for her op-ed, just as our own time spent not looking at Facebook becomes the status updates and photos we will post later.

The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability. It’s not real unless it’s on Google; pics or it didn’t happen. We aren’t friends until we are Facebook friends. We have come to understand more and more of our lives through the logic of digital connection. Social media is more than something we log into; it is something we carry within us. We can’t log off.

Solving this digital dualism also solves the contradiction: We may never fully log off, but this in no way implies the loss of the face-to-face, the slow, the analog, the deep introspection, the long walks, or the subtle appreciation of life sans screen. We enjoy all of this more than ever before. Let’s not pretend we are in some special, elite group with access to the pure offline, turning the real into a fetish and regarding everyone else as a little less real and a little less human.

Read the article here: The IRL Fetish: Published at The New Inquiry, NATHAN JURGENSON, 28th June


We’re not friends until we are Facebook friends…

Isn’t that the truth these days? We speak about our “online” lives as if they are a different life but in reality, it is nothing more than an carefully curated extension of ourselves. 

Online cannot exist in a vacuum, and Nathan highlights this in his piece.  The internet and “social media” (as if it is a “thing” that can be defined), is only another tool for us to interact with as we see fit.  In the same way that the clothes we choose to wear are an outward reflection of our beliefs or the image we wish to project, the parts of our lives we choose to share speak volumes about how we wish to be seen. 


I can’t stop myself from thinking about how everything I say and write on the internet is there forever, which at times (quite often, in fact), makes me hesitate. That permanence makes me apprehensive. Makes me think twice, three times, four even, before choosing to share something.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of our oversharing culture? Doesn’t it fly in the face of presenting the “raw” individual?  Isn’t that why we follow celebrities and athletes on facebook and twitter, to get a glimpse behind the polished curtain of their presentation and see the person underneath?


Perhaps I am a little old fashioned and believe that not everyone has the equal right to access all parts of me.  Some parts should still be earned. I still believe in the concept of privacy, however laughable that may be in the 21st century.  There is still a space in society for the private and the public sphere, and you can choose to erase the line between the two or keep them completely delineated… that is still a personal choice that exists.

After all, Facebook, Google, Amazon and every damn Silicon Valley company may be able to track every move online, bank details, movements and purchases… but they still have no idea what we are thinking.  We still have the power to buck our supposed trends and preferences, be erratic, unpredictable and unplug.

That is the beauty of being human.