This was the hardest task for me, because I don’t rest. Anyone who knows me knows I am a workaholic. The only time I get near to resting is sleep and even then I wake up, a move a lot in my sleep and sometimes even dream of work. So I started to think, create a series where you’re not resting. At that moment I remembered how I read an article which said that having a social media addiction is like being addicted to anything else, whether it be sex, drugs, alcohol or caffeine. I liked the idea that even when you think you’re resting, so just scrolling though Facebook or twitter really your brain isn’t resting.
My initial idea was to take photos of things that look like what you can be addicted to like alcohol but add a social media logo into it. I did a test shoot with a shot glass.
Ideas similar to:
The first idea was to get the reflection of a Facebook logo in the glass but it didn’t work at all:
I liked the results but I continued with this shoot trying to portray this idea of panic like when you feel like you have withdrawal symptoms
I liked them but I felt like there could be something more. So I thought about movement, because sometimes when someone has withdraws they shake. The first image I got was:
I really liked it, so I kept doing movement photos and I really like the results:
I really liked them, I felt they gave a this manic vibe, which is what I wanted.
The issue now was how to contextualise them. My first idea was to layer brain scans of addicts but after a search for these there weren’t many and if there were they weren’t particularly good.
My next ideas were:
- Creating a diptych the other being a photo at the computer looking calm.
- Layering a photo of me at the computer using the webcam, looking slightly gormless
- Or to contrast the images with a tweet or Facebook status of something happy. like “yay it’s my birthday”
The last idea is my favourite so I tried this idea out.
I really liked this strange contrast. I felt I just needed to neaten it up :
I started to think about who else might have looked at similar subjects. I first looked at photographers who have studied addiction. One person who came up a lot was Chris Arnade, an ex wall street trader turned photographer. He did a series call Faces Of Addiction, where he photographed and got the stories of people in the South Bronx, New York who have a drug addiction. He said:
“By photographing them with respect, is to show that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is as valid as anyone else.”
In some ways from looking at the photos you wouldn’t know that there was something wrong with the subject, which I think makes the set of photos very haunting but beautiful. However, this is not something I wanted to do. As I wanted to show that this could potentially be something to be concerned with. That social media addictions might really affect our lives, so I wanted my images to be more striking. Arnade, did another series called Faces of Recovery which is also a lovely set of images about those on the recovery from addictions, but this isn’t something I can do as there aren’t many people who have admitted themselves as a “social media addict” and if they had there’s no rehab for it.
Another photographer Tony Fouhse did a series called Live Through This, it follows one woman who was a heroine addict and how the Fouhse helped her get into rehab. This was an intensive series of one person’s story. I like how there is some text to go with the photos letting you know the story but also it is paired up with notes she had written or the admittance slip to rehab. The story is well told, but again not something I can do as there is no homeless social media addicts desperate to rehabilitate themselves.
Photographer Lincoln Clarke also photographed female heroine addicts in his series Heroines, it was shot in the late 90s early 2000s, all of the subjects are heroine addicts, the photos are quite gritty and grunge-y. This is quite a stereotypical view of addicts but it gives the viewer this idea that there is a problem, something that I want to do, that from the first photo you see, you know something isn’t right.
I thought to look at the world of addiction outside of photography and a more psychological approach. For example one university in Maryland, USA, got 200 students to go without media so phones, Facebook and email etc for 24hours. The students were asked to write about the results and the results showed that these students had withdrawal-like symptoms. One student said without texting she felt “quite alone” another said because of all the media we have like phones, televisions and iPods we have “become unable to shed” our “media skin”.
One of the researchers of this study said how shocked she was about this addiction but she noticed that media was the students ways to connect to friends and family so to detach themselves from it meant people did feel alone. Now, this addiction is started to be realised by psychologists.
Another article by ABC news, Australia, spoke to a student at Perth University said she felt she was a social media addict she said:
“I log onto my Facebook account on my phone about every 20 minutes, and sometimes it’s purely out of habit,”
I think this is something many people do, as it allows them to connect with family and keep up-to-date one what’s happening. Although people are being treated for this addiction in London. One psychologist in Perth said he had treated many teenagers for it, who had been brought to him by their parents but like in most cases of addiction the teenager didn’t believe they had a problem. This is something very shocking to me.
Another study at Harvard University looked at why there might be an addiction. Through a series of tests and experiments the researchers found that when giving out information about yourself about your activities etc the part of the brain that is activated is the same part that is associated with pleasure, like what we get from receiving money, eating or having sex. Therefore giving out your information through statuses etc is rewarding, even on quite a small scale. In a secondary experiment the researchers found when a person was allowed to to share their thoughts with someone they knew, there was more activity in the reward region of their brain/. And when the person was told their thoughts would be kept private there was less of a reward sensation.
When looking at photos depicting withdrawal symptoms there is a sense of desperation that comes across like in these photos:
This is something that I wanted to show, like an idea of panic when being without something, so to pair my photos with the thing they can’t be without creates a stark contrast.
The images I took are what I wanted. If I could I would try to make it more obvious about addiction like brain scans, perhaps looking at the brain whilst on social media and when off it for a few days.