Reducing Things to 3 Dimensions: The Problem of Pleasure in a Digital Age

Something Pete Rollins tweeted this morning got me thinking a bit:

“Often the problem we face is not a lack of enjoyment, but an inability to enjoy our enjoyment.”

I think this is a particular concern in a world where so much of our lives is now mediated. Rather than attend a party, we attend and tweet about it, and update our Facebook, and take photos of ourselves enjoying ourselves… It’s not a uniquely digital problem: we all know that the moment is punctured as soon as someone makes everyone aware of it by saying something like ‘this is the best fun I’ve had in ages!’ It was…until everyone thought about it. But with social media the problem is so much worse.

I think we are spending too much time concerned about convincing ourselves – and the invisible ‘others’ that we have in mind – that we are having a good time. So what becomes important is not having a good time, but recording the fact that we had a good time, in order for others to be sure that we did.

In a way, the urge to record something, to commit it to digital memory, suggests a fear that we will forget. But the recording is it’s own forgetting: because we are not ‘in’ the moment when we are mediating it to others, but thinking about recording it, we loose the memory and truth of it.

Without wanting to be too base, it’s analogous to having a mirrored ceiling in the bedroom, or feeling the need to record the act. It’s not enough to be there in the moment, to lose oneself with another person – there has to be some evidence, some external observation – even if that is yourself looking at yourself as in the mirror.

One might say that true pleasure has no reflection. To ramp this up and use a quantum parallel, true pleasure is mysterious and rich… as soon as it is observed, photographed, or reflected on ‘wow, we are having fun aren’t we!’ it is collapsed into something more narrow; more physically real, perhaps, but actually lessened by its reduction to three dimensions.

Unreported pleasure is perhaps a dying art. To simply enjoy, and not have to tell anyone… to be happy enough that it happened, and that memories will form and fail…



4 responses to “Reducing Things to 3 Dimensions: The Problem of Pleasure in a Digital Age”

  1. This is a real intriguing post – and I do tend to agree; of course, now I am curious to see how ‘vanity’ plays in to this conversation.

    Or rather, is vanity, ironically enough, a mask we wear to cover such fear…?

    Either way, thanks for the post!

  2. I don’t think it’s about vanity actually. I think vanity implies a sort of self-confidence and self-belief that carries huge self-worth, and expects that everyone wants to share it.

    In this case I think it’s about an absence of self-belief, and the need to constantly seek affirmation with ‘likes’ by pumping updates. But what this insecurity can do is remove people from the situations they are in, and seek to record things rather than actually enjoy them.

  3. I’m not convinced that this is just a problem that has come about in the digital age.

    We’ve always wanted to share what we do with people. social media just gives us the opportunity to do it immediately.

  4. What if it is just that people are more fully enjoying a moment because they can share it with those that are close to them via social media. I find during some moments, especially if its a site or something beautiful, I hate doing it alone, so if no one is around I love to share it.