Public Is The New Private
The last couple of days were very good. It was a holiday weekend, and I was lucky enough to spend it with my best friends. We walked in the city, squeezed in the subway, ate huge bagels with cream cheese and laughed constantly. Oh, and we also took photos all the time.
Usually, when each and every one of us lives in a different city and time zone, we try to capture little moments of the day, and we are able to preserve and experience them together. This is how I get a photo of one’s first coffee in the morning, and the other’s outfit of the day. These are two private actions one does ritually with herself- and by sharing these moments with each other we feel close and connected. The photos represent a private action which becomes a mutual experience for the 3 of us by sharing it. It is no longer a “lonely” private moment, it is a shared, mutual one.
In his article “Publics and Counterpublics” Michael Warner claims that “private and public have been commonly and sensibly understood as a distinct zone. Moving from one to another is experienced as crossing a barrier or making a transition- like going from the privacy of one’s bedroom to the public room of a convention hall.”
But what happens when a photo is uploaded to Instagram? A single moment is shared with an unlimited amount of people. At once, one’s private experience becomes public and eternal. Is it the new way of keeping in touch with people? There are no longer personal conversations with friends, but a personal gallery of photos and videos that keeps anyone who wants to see it, updated. The publisher is waiting expectantly to see how popular the post is, and gets recognition by the number of “like” comments that he received. In the meantime, the viewer is checking out to see if there is a new post, a piece of information, a new update in someone’s life.
Both the publisher and the viewer are nourished by that platform. One takes photos of various scenes and moments in life in purpose to publish them, while the viewer is simultaneously waiting to consume that information. The publisher can post a photo that was taken in his bedroom. The publishing act can be performed in the bedroom or in the supermarket while waiting in line. The viewer can watch it in the subway, in the middle of a meeting, or while seating on the couch after a long day. Privacy is changing its face and expropriated from us. Consciously we expose our lives to whoever is willing to take a part in it. The boundaries between public and private are so blurred. It feels that the need for privacy getting smaller, not only does one not keep his personal information to himself but rather actively shares his life with the public.
Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone. 2005. Pp21-44.