MMOARG - Massive Multiplayer Online Augumented Reality Game.
In the Massive Multiplayer Augmented Reality Game Pokemon GO, players perform actions both online and offline, in response to cues from their smartphone, in order to achieve a higher status than other players. While Pokemon GO is based on fictional characters and fantasy narratives, social media MMOARGs like Twitter are based on world news, real events, moral, ideological and theoretical belief and debates, conspiracies, and disinformation. Like Pokemon GO, the MMOARG of social media uses real world data in gameplay scenarios, which players engage with though their smartphones to achieve status. In Pokemon GO, however, players are rewarded for capturing virtual "Pokemon," while in social media MMOARGs the players are rewarded for capturing other players, turning them into "followers."
Although it is a MMOARG, social media does not require one to compete or play the game in order to access information. The difference between players and non-players can be distinguished by their in-game behavior, such as whether or not a user is participating in "campaigns," viral topics that encourage player engagement despite being of marginal importance on the scale of global issues. Curiously, it is easier to distinguish a player from a non-player than it is to distinguish a player from a bot - an automated, fake player used to influence or incite certain game actions or campaigns. Due to the existence of bots and other concerns about potential exploitation through MMOARGs, some people believe "campaigns" are actually "psyops," meant to influence not only the players online actions, but their offline actions and beliefs as well.
In The Fall of Public Man (1977), sociologist Richard Sennett traced the peculiar notion of authenticity as “the involuntary disclosure of character states” to the 19th century, when the “weighting of public and private life became unbalanced.” Publicity meant vulnerability (a experiential condition that contemporary social media has made acute once again), which meant that defensive measures of concealment were presumed to be widespread. This led to a general suspicion that all public behavior was a façade screening the truth. Sennett writes:
"There grew up in Paris and London, and thence in other Western capitals … the notion that strangers had no right to speak to each other, that each man possessed as a public right an invisible shield, a right to be left alone. Public behavior was a matter of observation, of passive participation, of a certain kind of voyeurism … Knowledge was no longer to be produced by social intercourse."
BeReal, at least in how it is being marketed, seeks to eliminate the flexibility from that signifying dimension so that a post can mean nothing intentional and therefore will reveal who you actually are. The implication is that methodically catching people off-guard is a surefire way to ascertain their truth, because their conscious will always serves to disguise rather than reveal their character. Who you “really are” can be accessed only by circumventing who you want to be. The authentic self is captured when you are monitored like a subject of an experiment, under controlled conditions; it is only in your observed behavior, as parsed by an outside party. By this logic, an even more real version of BeReal would just give your friends access to your cameras and microphones without you knowing it, so they can peep in on you and see how you act when you think no one is watching. If the panoptic gaze is falsifying us, only voyeurism sets us free.
But as Philip Auslander points out in Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (1999), “to understand the relationship between live and mediatized forms, it is necessary to investigate that relationship as historical and contingent, not as ontologically given or technologically determined.” In other words, no gimmick or special trait of a particular medium can make any representation inherently more authentic; what is experienced as “real” or “immediate” is subject to trends, to novelty and familiarity, to the social context in which media is consumed. Authenticity itself is not a transhistorical idea but a reflection of the particular social anxieties regarding identity during a particular cultural moment.
There is a strong desire to disavow the sort of calculations we have to make in self-presentation, to claim the “real me” is not the self-interested schemer I seem to be but the unpredictable person I am when caught by surprise. Anything I think I know about myself should be understood as a lie I’ve generated to hide the authentic truth about myself from myself: “Thinking” is, from this perspective, not the self. Meanwhile, algorithms reflect objective knowledge produced from behavioral data: “the real me.” Consequently I am only that which I can’t take conscious responsibility for, so in a sense I am always blameless. The more I use apps and algorithms, the more innocent I become.