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Social Implications in a Customizable Era of Spectacle

Musings on Trump's Mar-a-Lago Indictment Speech, Doing the Wave, The Algorithm, Transitioning to Digital, and Customizable Reality

By Jenna in the StarsPublished 12 months ago 11 min read
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Is it just me or was Trump’s “I just got arrested” party at Mar-a-lago giving big southern fraternity formal vibes? It had a red carpet, a crowd of cheering fans, media, press and everything. Because Donald Trump….was arrested and charged with 34 counts of criminal acts…..woo, let’s party! In an era of spectacle, anything works as an excuse to dress up, get drinks, and take pictures, for the memories, right?

Sure, Donald Trump is somewhat of a spectacular figure.

Sure, he had extramarital affairs and tried to keep them secret. Sure, he was the host of reality TV show The Apprentice. Sure, he made sweet something with a sex worker named Stormy Daniels and then paid her and some doormen a bunch of money to keep quiet about it.

Sure, he incited a riot at the capital that jeopardized innocent people’s lives and the whole architecture of the U.S.'s democracy and nation, and it's not even clear if he really did it on purpose or fully understood the implication of what he was doing when he was doing it and he was the president of the US (!?!?!?)

Sure, he tweets raucous things. Sure he’s a 76 year old man. Sure, his wife Melania hasn’t been seen in public with him for -is it years? And sure, he is rumored to be so afraid of being poisoned by restaurant workers and his kitchen staff that he primarily orders anonymous take out from fast food places.

That’s high class living if you ask me, that’s how you know you've made it.

While I was watching Trump’s speech at Mar-a-lago I felt briefly nostalgically transported back to my college days at an Ivy of the South. It almost looked like Derby Day, or a preppy sorority rush event but with a media/Hollywood theme. There was a red carpet and a crowd full of red faced, phone-wielding spectators and everything. I wondered, were they fans, fanatics, or simply good-times bystanders?

Some well dressed people who flew with the Donald from New York to West Palm Beach made their red carpet entrance, through doors that media cameras remained trained on for an hour in anticipation, awaiting the everyone who’s anyone in “Trump-world,” as one reporter on CNN put it - some of his children and their partners, members of his staff, and other Trumpland-affiliated officials.

In the attending crowd, the number of young men and women, college age into their 30s, dressed to the nines in sporting jackets and semi formal dresses, made it appear that this convening of MAGA people was more like a reason to dress up and get drunk than an actual legitimate sociopolitical movement gathering. And maybe that’s just fine. But it calls into question some of the greatest social and humanitarian missteps of the past - and how so many humans supported these leaders and decisions, or perhaps found them compelling, or entertaining - or just let it happen. And to add another level on top of it, with the convenience of technology and the public's ability to customize what kinds of information they see and who they interact with, both online and out there "in real life," the slope of denial or "ignorance is bliss" gets even more slippery.

Serious question: are these country club members attending his Mar-a-lago indictment party really his supporters, or are they just there for a good time and to get in on the spectacle? Kind of like the majority of the Jan 6 rioters, I would imagine they just wanted to be there, to be part of something, part of history.

I kind of get it, I’m a sucker for groupthink sometimes too and get caught up in the energy of the crowd - like at baseball games, when you do the wave!

Groupthink is defined by dictionary.com as "the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility."

It’s so sad how few steps there are between doing the wave in a stadium and suddenly becoming a complacent bystander to fascism - oops!

It seems in our society, more and more, that more people are willing to embrace groupthink for convenience, ease, and pleasure, at the expense of social responsibility, social awareness, and accountability. It’s sort of like the extreme modern version of that old adage, “if your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it too?” Whether seeking to conform with safety in numbers, trying to get ahead financially, or simply being too busy or tired to think too critically, there are many reasons someone might “go with the flow” and fall into groupthink. People are often just looking for the way that allows them to do whatever they want with the least resistance possible - be it in personal relationships, in finances and budgeting, in their daily routines, in workplace culture - think WFH, digital nomad, remote life- in political ideology, in dating and romance, in the metaverse, and beyond.

With the internet, smart marketing algorithms, and just the way things are now, you could easily go days, weeks, maybe even months, meticulously curating your life, pruning away the friction of so-called irritations and imperfections - wait, free speech? People with different opinions? People who live differently than you do? Shshshhh - without seeing much of the world outside of your likes and subscriptions. It might feel more and more like you really do get to live in your own perfect little world full of all of the information you want to hear, the pictures you want to see, the articles you want to read ( all based on your past clicks and likes of course) - these days, on the internet at least, you’re living in whatever reality it is you choose.

All of these internet and technology based applications allow for both so much more and so much less transparency. On the one hand it is easier to put your information online and get connected than ever. On the other hand, sexual predators, trolls, scam artists, and manipulators abound on dating apps, facebook housing groups, job boards, and the like. Virtually any internet forum has become fertile ground for the twisting of the facts and manipulation. Deep fakes, slander, and fake news are all part of this reality distortion, but then so too are algorithms, “recommendations,” and being able to “mute” certain profiles, brands, and companies on our social feeds. These preferences we express are able to inform algorithms and AI of how to cater to what we know and like, but not necessarily how to make us more tolerant, make the world a better place, or make us better people. Like an echo chamber, the internet powers-that-be tend to magnify and give back more of what we already know and like. In this way most of us, whether we intend to or not, are contributing to this customization of our internet reality - and through extension, our minds and our "IRL" lives.

Fake news and misinformation of all kinds is a problem in the internet era, not because the news is fake, which isn’t new - tabloids have been around forever - but because the echo chamber for the misinformation is so much wider and farther reaching than it ever has been before. Instantaneously a falsity can become the shot that’s heard around the world thanks to the internet, smart phones, and social media.

Are we living in a black mirror episode yet? Because I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the singularity, the point of no return.

At this point, it would take a disaster on an apocalyptic world-ending level to separate humankind from its technology, so neurobiologically bound are we to our devices that they have essentially become a part of our every day critical function. Almost anyone who works with other people, lives far apart from family, or just wants to be a part of the modernizing world (- the very concept of which is largely marketed to us by the media and technology companies themselves-) probably has at the very least a smartphone, if not an array of gadgets and tools - computers, laptops, tablets, VR headsets, apps, algorithms - that bring them closer to the manufactured cyborg we call a future, and further from the organic world of sunlight, skin, and air, but also - so full of other people’s opinions - ugh.

For those of us who are unable to tolerate the conflict of the real world, there’s always the internet and the virtual world. A long-time safe haven for the grouchy, the exiled, the alternative, the extreme, and the futuristic, internet forums have a cult counterculture that runs deep. But with the widespread use of technology and the industrial and technical development of the metaverse, this kind of gamified and curated life is becoming available - and appealing - to the mainstream in a high quality and immersive way.

The real question is - is it really doing us any good creating these dreamlives of our own that allow us to avoid the work and the conflict that it takes to navigate" real life?" Is it a form of life denial or escapism to choose a “pretty” life that’s fake over a “real” life that might feel ugly and full of disappointment, discomfort, and violence?

Once the stuff of science fiction, the world we each uniquely want to live in is now available digitally at our fingertips - and maybe, in some circumstances, this is why technology is a good thing. Because without it, all we have is the stifling and disappointing limitations of the real world, and perhaps this is the ground upon which all wars for territory and great battles over the throne and religion have been fielded.

In a digital world of our own making, we can customize everything from who we're dating to the way we look to our own design and preferences - but is it real? And does it matter? Or rather, does it matter enough?

We all want the outside world, the world we know and have known our whole lived experience of a life, to fit the ideals we have come to cultivate and believe, whatever they may be for each of us as individuals or groups. The point of America, and perhaps all life, everywhere, is to be able to co-exist peacefully with different beliefs and different values, if we all share the same core values of basic human rights and liberties, like life, happiness, justice. Some of us may have more accepting world views than others… Some of us want an inclusive world, where there’s permission for everyone to be as they are, as long as it is not hurting another person’s physical, mental, financial or emotional health and freedom. If the world were made of acceptance, many of our problems would be far different.

But it’s not. And we know it. Whether it’s a game or their core, some people seem to be out to erase, to delete, to censor, to limit, to outlaw, to homogenize, to live either ruleless or so close to the rule it cuts them like a piece of glass. A desire to control who others love, what others look like, how others identify, when and how they can have children, what books they can read, what ideas they can access, and soon who knows what else.

Is the customizable world here to save us, pre-save, to preserve us? Or to separate us from one another more and more, pixel by pixel, curated post by curated post, into asynchronous realities that make it harder and harder to interact and connect with others. The more customizable and diverse individual people’s realities become, the less tolerance there may be for other people’s realities infringing on their so-called “perfect life.” Between the algorithms and people’s own desires to see more of what they already like, confirmation bias has become practically ingrained in people’s minds, on their phone screens, and in decision making today.

We are all in an era inw hich we must ask outselves, what’s more important? To live in a comfortable world tailored to your own choosing, or to learn how to live gracefully in a changing world full of diversity, difference, and challenges? Which reality do we want to live in?

And while the virtual world may not be as immersively available to all as it is to some, there's plenty of "IRL" customization to be done as well, like with our physical bodies, choices and actions. The choice to show up to an event like Trump's indictment speech says just as much as your avatar's choices, how you vote with your dollar, or any other choice, about you.

Whether Trump is a true evil or just the biggest gemini of all time starring in the biggest reality tv show of all time, I just wanted to comment on the nature of the times, and this moment perfectly captured our era's fascination with fame, spectacle, celebrity, infamy, subscription-style reality, and being part of it or doing it for the experience, YOLO style.

opiniontv reviewtechsocial mediasatirepsychologypop culturehumanityfact or fictionconventionscelebritiesartificial intelligence
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About the Creator

Jenna in the Stars

fiction writer, journalist, reporter, *astrologer*, wildlife lover, citizen of planet earth, curious human

book a reading with me: ascensionastrologyco.com

email: [email protected]

jennabernsteincopywriting.com

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