Much of the critical discourse on social media misidentifies its problematic features as bugs, or problems to solve. Supposed solutions to these problems tend to focus on individual actions. We should delete the apps, own our own data, never click on recommended videos, and realize that we are the product. But if predatory algorithms succeed by individuating people—selling people “choice” and “options” as it harvests user data—then an entire online ecosystem arranged through the logic of that design can neither be meaningfully challenged nor effectively understood at the level of the individual alone. Transformative action addressing social media can only occur after we understand it at the nexus of where the group impinges on the individual. I revisit one of psychoanalytic theory’s primary gambits, interrogating the effect the social has on the individual psyche, to examine the fact of the social itself as a problem. Working from this premise, this essay has two ambitions: 1. To show that social media is always already a site to see the psyche as understood by Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, meaning that social media is space for the psychoanalytic conception of the psyche prior to any intervention on behalf of psychoanalytic theory/ theorists; and 2. To show what we gain by reflecting that argument back on to psychoanalytic theory itself.
"The Social Sinthome."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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