Traveling While Standing Still

Photo by Daniel Miramontes, 2017


Commentary by Daniel Miramontes

There is a dimming down of consciousness, a sort of myopic attention. A head-down society is simply a symptom of a skewed way of seeing life. Social media not only drains our devices, it drains our humanity as well. It replaces those necessary parts of being human, turning them into data, into profiles, into “interactions” without contact.  The curated representations of ourselves on social media have been manufactured to create a facade behind which lie only other facades. As David Foster Wallace put it, “Hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human . . . since to be really human . . . is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic.”


These representations overlook the hidden parts of the psyche: the micro-expressions, body language, scents, tastes, and “goo-prone” touches that you only get from face-to-face encounters. These are parts of life that cannot be translated to data, turned into emoji.


While social media do facilitate access to a new world of information and interactions, at the same time they provide an easy entrance to globalization and commodification.  Traveling while standing still, the feeling is that we can go anywhere and consume anything. In other words, never fully being part of anything, you’re neither here nor there.   The abundance of Things and the overload of information–created by the western idea of progress–becomes an incessant noise, making it impossible to live in the now. The endless scrolling, tweeting, and chasing after the latest post or the latest gadget never stops.


As Slavoj Žižek observes, this situation is like drinking diet coke; people pursue the promise of this artificial thing even if it is just a representation, an idea of the real thing, which can never be fulfilled. They “drink the nothingness itself . . . in effect merely an envelope of a void” (Žižek). Following the latest smiley-face emoji is like being on a fast food diet, since fast food is only a representation of nutritious food.  Like feeding on something of no substance, these hollow, modified versions of feelings and social interactions come to replace humanity as we know it. Ultimately, this hollow diet can only lead to the formation of hollow people.


But in contrast to the postmodern nihilism that is embedded in so much of our popular culture, I believe that many people are already waking up from this diminished view of life. Groups of people are sprouting everywhere that are becoming more conscious; they are taking their eyes off their phones and looking into each other’s eyes and beginning this very important dialogue. The work has begun, acknowledging these aspects of the current system are steps forward in the right direction: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” Theodore Parker



Daniel Miramontes is a student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and Cinema at San Francisco State University.  His interests include the writings of Alan Watts and Carl Jung in regards to consciousness, and the practical understanding of existential queries. His visual work stems from these topics.