The world had a lot of plans for 2017, but WhatsApp deciding that it needed its own version of Snapchat stories was not one of them.
The merits and demerits of this feature aside (I think we can all agree that while the update was made with good intentions, the removal of the original typed WhatsApp status was a poor decision, one that WhatsApp had to rectify due to the backlash.) – the temporary story making form is a growing trend. Instagram decided it needed it, WhatsApp brought it in, and even Facebook has its own version now.
Everyone is telling a story.
The era of peak TV has brought with it something else – the understanding that someone is always watching. We pose for the invisible camera that is our movie, and with the right filter it starts to look more and more like the epiphanic moment of romantic revelation coming closer. Of course, if one chooses to be part of another movie, the right filter can give you the tortured detective ideal that you need – with the fairy lights making your existence just a little bit more Peter Pan than whatever it had been before.
Democracy in literature has allowed us this right – we design ourselves, we make ourselves, we fashion who we are – and with the right filter, we can make our own movies. The constant storytelling is almost voyeuristic, since the designing of your self is in constant view. Everything, from the caption to the image, to the time limit and the words said – everything goes through a mental screening. And this process entails just one decision: who do you want to be today?
The tools which allow this constant self-fashioning can be examined further. What is the difference between the article you share on Facebook, the picture of your room on Instagram, or the written status you choose for WhatsApp? What does it say when you share a meme about what kind of humour you like, and on which platform it is allowed? How is it that on Snapchat – which is more exclusive, allowing you to decide who sees the story – captions can have swear words? Facebook, on the other hand, works as a more general platform where we avoid putting up anything our parents would disapprove of.
The differences between these platforms bring us to the issue of the performative part of our identity. We make ourselves for other people to see almost constantly, and the way we make ourselves changes with the group we interact with. There’s nothing inherently new about this. Every person changes depending on whom they speak to – but currently, this performance has become more defined, and caters to a larger audience. The way we fashion ourselves has increased with the sheer number of tools we have to do just this – because with every meme we post, we add to what people think of us.
The focus of literature and movies also shows the way this fashioning has changed. The democratisation of media has allowed almost anyone to imagine that they are part of this grand narrative – this movie, one with the right playlist, the right words, the right poetry, is theirs for the taking. We design our lives to look like these movies – the validity of unsaid experiences fades because, as in movies, the most hidden moments of a character’s progression are always part of the scene. Therefore, even moments of peaceful solitude are captured and shared, so that the experience becomes an interesting blend of your own performance and the constant feedback of your audience.
Everything becomes a story to be told. And in that we become stories – constantly read, and constantly needing an audience.
T in a Cup
A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.
Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight
Column icon by Sanna Jain
Featured Image by Stuti Pachisia