Are You a Super-Trapped Bird?

You must have seen them, or at least caught a glimpse of the heaps of articles telling you how to make a difference on social media. Guidelines on an effective creation of an alternate self: A better you, a more likable you, a successful you. Can we make a difference on social media? What does it even mean, to make a difference there? Does it ripple over to other spheres of existence? Does it even make a dent when it comes to anything non-pixelated? Does it affect anything real?

The Creation

Picture a huge cage.
You place all kinds of goodies into this cage, to lure in the birds, and they come!

The hungry ones come first, maybe others come a bit later, maybe for other reasons.
It doesn’t really matter.
In the end, they are inside the cage that was provided for them.

The master of the cage can turn on the light, making it seem like the sun is shining, or can cover the cage, making it seem like it’s night. The master of the cage can do all kinds of things, adding more and more different sorts of details to observe the birds, collect data, influence their perception, and their awareness, condition them in different ways, in a way teaching them the proper rules of the cage.
Lovebirds
The birds don’t care about any of that, they are more focused on each other. They like the company of other birds, so they try to adjust. Chitter-chatter, all the time, they talk, they share details from their lives, they try to convince each other of stuff, they feel like they are doing something. They are making a difference!

More and more, the birds lose sight of the fact that they are in the cage. They forget where they came from, they forget how it was to fly, and they sort of just jump around, maybe stretch their wings a bit, or they just sit still.
At best, if they do everything right, they can become someone in that cage: a sort of super bird.
A sort of super-trapped bird.

If all those birds were to leave that cage… then… well then, they could really do something!
They could affect things outside the cage, and not just within.
But they don’t.

They stay.

Ferruginous hawk
Ferruginous hawk, photo by Stephen Mcsweeny/Shutterstock

Consider that, once upon a time, the birds were a force to be reckoned with, especially when united!
In the cage, however, they were harmless.
Their innate life force neutralised. Their repetitive chirping had something so wistful about it, even when they sang of flying and joy, that it resembled wailing, more than birdsong. Observed collectively, from a distance, they seemed resignedly neutered.

 

The Heroic Social Media Battle

Is there such a thing? If emotional drain counts as a primary symptom of a heroic battle, then, maybe.
Does posting on social media ever equal fighting for something?

What if… posting on social media equals venting?

What if by venting and blowing off steam on social media, people become less likely to do anything out there, in the real world?
What if any concept that is being fought for “out there” was also created out there?
What if posting and talking on social media never creates anything?
What if it can only amplify that which is created out there?
And who is out there? Are you?
Who creates out there?


But, let us pause for a moment, and zoom out a bit further.
I can confidently make a claim, explaining it in great detail, to convince most listeners, but then come the questions. Additional questions.


Cages, Attachments, and Spheres of Influence

Is life all just about choosing cages? When you get a job, when you are in a relationship, when you have children, couldn’t all of these also be seen as cages? As constructs which entrap us?

And then, once such a cage is chosen and/or accepted, don’t we henceforth focus our efforts on making changes within the chosen cage? Are cages, attachments, and spheres of influence one and the same?
Does the ability to exert influence necessitate the acceptance of a precontrived range?
Who contrives the range?

It is said that too many questions obfuscate the issue. Then again, is there ever an issue which is so simple that it doesn’t touch upon any other issue? Isn’t it then our duty, as conscious and aware beings, to obfuscate it to the extent of including all relevant questions?

Currently, our society is feverishly consumed by one-sidedness and utmost assuredness. It is starving for questions, and begging for dialogue.
Did you notice?

7 Comments

  1. Mirjana

    A complex article that raises many questions and the answer to each could be a new article. Actually, it is not easy to answer these.
    For now, one small answer that I have for myself as an association, and it concerns freedom and its opposite. I really like Tarzan as a character, perhaps because he is a metaphor for an ideally free man from everything that hinders us who are as part of an organized society. But then, wilderness and organized societies are polarities. By each, there is something missing.
    I will think of these questions and come here again.

    1. Kit

      Of course each side has something missing. Therefore in my opinion, we should be working towards a balance between wilderness and organization.
      Meanwhile, the world is becoming more and more organized, and although the world is becoming more connected, it’s getting smaller. So I think there should definitely be effort in becoming more wild.

      1. Sabina
        Author

        Is it although it is more organized and connected, or because of it?

        “It is the second night,” he said. “The dangerous night. The charm of the unknown is gone and the charm of familiarity has not yet come. We’ll survive it.”
        (Erich Maria Remarque, Arch of Triumph)

        Do familiarity and connectedness remove the possibility for the wild, which rather equals unpredictability, or are these simply separate, though complimentary flavours?

        1. Kit

          For me connectedness doesn’t take away the possibilty to be wild. One simply needs look for the unknown and be wild where one can be.

  2. Gilles

    Hi everyone!

    Thanks for this thought-provoking platform and for the invitation to join. Many questions in a single post! Great. To ask one more, may I distill the above into a central question: Can I be free?

    It’s an important question that has been keeping me busy for years. “My” non-definite answer is: the answer is a paradox.

    One central aspect of this question, is the concept of the self. The “I”. How do we relate to it, and who, if not the self, is the one relating to it? I am not sure whether the latter is solvable, but what we can all agree on is that, at least, there is a perception of self.

    I once rewrote Lovelaces’s quote “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”, into “Social media do not a prison make, nor avatars a cage.” While this was five years ago and some concerning stuff has come to light afterwards, I think the essence of the quote still stands. It is only once you believe or accept that you’re in prison, that you actually are.

    To come back to the question of the “I”: there has been some very interesting research on the effects of Virtual Reality on self-perception. One application was used in the treatment of eating disorders (link below). Simple example from that study: a person who was unhealthily thin was asked, wearing VR-glasses, to adjust a VR-persona’s body appearing in a VR-mirror as their own. They could make it bigger and smaller untill they saw, in the VR-mirror, a figure which they believed matched their body. Then, their actual body would shine through, in a real mirror. They discovered that their actual figure did not match with their perceived figure. The VR-simulation compared to reality helped them become aware of this. The study goes further, but I want to stick to one point: this viscerally illustrates how our self-perception can be delusional to the degree that we are convinced we are a certain way, but in fact, we are different.

    When we watch a film, read a book, watch a play or, as I enjoy recently, play an immersive computer game, we become aware of how fluid our self perception can be. If the story moves us, we can actually feel the personalities’ adventures as if they happened to ourselves. Even when we know that whatever we experience there is a made up story, and therefore not real, we can feel it as if it were really happening to us. I think this empathy is our key strength, but it’s also a treacherous weakness that we should always be aware of, because it can be used to manipulate us.

    I once had a dream of me lying in my own bed. Somebody would call me from the living room, and I would climb down my ladder and go check out what’s going on. It would be something extremely weird, and I’d realise it was a dream and be back in bed. Then, something else would happen, waking me up and seeming very real until I came down, only to soon realise that again, it was my dream playing tricks on me. It happened again and again, until I actually woke up and convinced myself I was back in reality. I discovered the tricks every time, but was fooled again straight afterwards. That taught me how hard it is to weapon yourself against the delusion of reality.

    We are entering a future where manipulation will reach new levels. If I wanted to, I could take video material of you guys from the internet and make you say whatever I want on screen. It might take me a week, but it would work. You could do the same with me, or with any other public figure. With AI and VR developments, this will only get worse and we are not far away from receiving a phone call from our own mothers who will actually be someone trying to rob us using voice technology. Or worse: to meet our own mothers in a virtual reality without realising we are in it.

    These are just practical implications of something deeper and more important, which is the search for truth. Who are we? Where are we? What the hell are we doing here? If you go a bit deeper, it all falls apart.

    The example of the robbery is not scary to someone who is not attached to the things he or she can be robbed of. Does not identify with them. That too is a practical implication of that search for a true self and in my view a prerequisite for freedom.

    To get back to the topic at hand, I don’t believe social media can truly affect one’s capacity to fly. But I agree that it can seduce a person to stop flying. Or at least, what we perceive to be that person. But what is equally important: so can this forum. So can you, so can I. We all have that capacity. That is why, I think, becoming truly free from one, is to become truly free from all.

    Therefore I also agree with Kit that we need balance. One between wilderness and organization, freedom and captivity, delusion and reality. While realising that all of these are just concepts of the mind, distracting us from what is actually here.

    Nice work, the site looks great. I’ll try to pass by from time to time, when I’m not caught up in all the other things of life : ).

    With joy,

    Gilles

    The study on eating disorders (warning: it’s a bit dry).

    1. Sabina
      Author

      Nice to see you here, Gilles!
      I’ll dive straight into some thoughts that arose while reading yours:

      “While this was five years ago and some concerning stuff has come to light afterwards, I think the essence of the quote still stands.”

      Do you realize what you said through that?
      You said that knowledge of certain things affected your view of the quote, at least to some degree.
      What about the things you simply don’t know at the moment?
      What if someone else does have certain knowledge (…and I mean knowledge. Not beliefs.), and speaks from that point, but to show all of it cannot be done in any one message (however detailed it may be), not even during an all might conversation.
      What if an intelligent “super-trapped bird” is meant to see their cage as merely another opportunity?

      As you wrote: “The study goes further, but I want to stick to one point: this viscerally illustrates how our self-perception can be delusional to the degree that we are convinced we are a certain way, but in fact, we are different.”

      Would a super-trapped be trapped at all if they realized that they are super-trapped?

      These are really just questions, thrown into the air between us. Not meant to be juggled with analytical rhetoric, but rather float around aimlessly, to finally fall as they may.

      I wish to contribute to turning our attention to our creativity. To all of us as creators. We can do incredible things, you know?

      I am glad you are here!
      Sabina

      1. Kit

        Well we create our own worlds and although we can keep expanding them, they are up to a point a prison. We all live in a limited perception and understanding of the world, and therefore will in my opinion always be trapped in a way, but we can seek to expand and make our world bigger.
        But isn’t this a slightly different topic than the one in the article?

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