An Artificial Reality by Karina Farris

“An Artificial Reality” encompasses a topic that is of extreme relevance in society today, as well as in my own personal life. With many questions and concerns in mind, I decided to create a blog in which I would try to dissect social media. In addition, I would explore the idea that we now exist in two realities. More specifically, these different worlds apply to our physical being and the other, behind a screen, online life. We have discussed this idea in various readings, documentaries, and more. This exploration of two realities was mainly influenced by Brody Condon’s idea of “the Scripted Self” from an article about his LARP project Level 5. In this, he states that our image is penned by our own hands and it is also handed to us online, by others. Thus, we essentially project ideas and an image of who we want to be when we post, blog, tweet, etc. Because this topic is very prevalent today, yet not widely discussed, I wanted to create an engaging project for and with my audience.

While I believe in the existence of these dual worlds, I sought out to see if this actually was the case. Do our online and offline selves match up? This is the question I wanted to answer at first. My first approach, naturally, began with social media. I check my own social media accounts on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter multiple times a day and yet, the majority of the postings I see online do not seem genuine. To me, it seems that people are intimidated by the truth in a way. In talking with various people, the way people project themselves online seems much happier and exciting than how their real life is going. Trying to portray this, I asked multiple people within my social group to send me a picture that they publicized on social media and to also send a caption that the viewer of the photograph would not have known by just looking at the post. After receiving various photos, my ideas were corroborated; however, it seemed as if I were solely scratching the surface of this social media topic.

Knowing that I could dig deeper, I decided to post various ads on Craigslist for someone to talk and listen to. My new control group became strangers who use Craigslist. I advertised it as an opportunity to talk about prevalent issues and posed the idea of an artificial reality regarding social media. I then had many in-depth conversations with strangers discussing the pros and cons of social media. While some saw it as a trend and harmless, many agreed that many people are experiencing life through the screen and therefore, are missing out on real-life experiences. This opened the topic up to the impact of technology and why people today feel insecure and are searching for validation of themselves online. Documented on tumblr, I post various portions of conversations. Accompanied with each conversation is a graphic embodying something that the person said that particularly struck me during our conversation. Many concluded that if likes or views were eliminated from social media, what people would post would be much different than what they post today. The idea of receiving validation of oneself in a way fuels social media. Through Craigslist, my ideas about the physical world and online world were substantiated. A handful of conversations took me further into the subject as to why the presence of social media is so prevalent today not only in society, but also why it has impacted my life in such a way.