Jean Baudrillard’s simulation theory on virtuality and reality has been the subject of many movies, especially the Matrix Movie. Baudrillard’s world of thought offers a rich background in understanding social media in the context of virtuality and reality. Baudrillard, who examines subjects such as simulation, the mentality of the masses, the other, and seduction in his books, became one of the people whose views were most consulted during the Gulf War thanks to his theory and concepts.
Simulacra: “Appearance perceived as a reality.”
Simulating: “Presenting something unreal as if it were real, trying to show it.”
Simulation: “The artificial reproduction of a specific mechanism of a tool, a machine, a system, a phenomenon, using a model or a computer program, for examination, demonstration, or explanation.”
Hyper-Reality: For Baudrillard, hyper-reality is blurring the line between fact and fiction.”
According to Baudrillard, simulation is the reproduction of reality using models. In simulations, the facts seem more real than they are. Simulations are not copies. The copies replace the originals that have natural reality and cause them to lose their naturalness.
Baudrillard says that reality disappears. This disappearance is not an ontological disappearance of reality. According to Baudrillard, reality has been replaced by signs, that is, things. Furthermore Technology has a great place in simulation theory. Technology plays a vital role in the dominance of indicators and simulacra by destroying reality.
As Baudrillard stated, modern societies initially saw technology as a collaborative economic development and valuable tool. Therefore, they defined it as something that contributes to the development of human relations and human values. However, over time, technology has lost these qualities attributed to it, or it has moved away from these qualities. As a result, it has begun to resemble a phenomenon that ultimately serves the consumption order.
Technology has begun to destroy people’s relationships with each other and people’s relationships with reality. As a result, another form of Marxist alienation occurs, separating individuals from reality, not the worker, through technology. Baudrillard called this modern alienation. According to Baudrillard, the use of technology takes the form of a kind of fetishism and reverses the end-means relationship that the human species enters with the technology produced.
According to Baudrillard, for this reason, it is necessary to question whether there is a rational relationship between ends and means in the field of society-specific production order and technology because the basis of consumption is no longer just to meet individual needs but to determine the social status through the indicators/values of the consumed objects.
Baudrillard speaks of an unbelievable reality of consumption and abundance created by the multiplication of objects, services and material goods. Individuals today buy a thing of signs with their behaviour. Thus consumption becomes a mode of existence.
People are given information about what, how, where and when they consume through consumption objects. Therefore, economic politics has been removed today, and cultural and ideological dimensions have come to the foreground. Now, instead of the exchange value of the goods, the indicator value has started to be necessary.
Baudrillard criticized the abolition of the distinction between high culture and low culture expressed by the thinkers of the Frankfurt School in their criticism of the Culture Industry. According to Baudrillard, in this new culture, shopping malls have become a pantheon that includes all consumption objects by exalting them.
According to Baudrillard, in western societies, where simulations take the place of reality, the masses are disappearing, and silent groups are taking their place.
The masses are not like the aggregates they were formerly referred to, such as the class or the people. They are also out of interest in the history into which they were drawn through silence. They no longer have a mass of working people nor a group belonging to any other social subject or object. There is no polarization in the pack in either direction.
The relations of the masses with the government consist of the manipulation of the masses by the government. The groups were guided by the government and put to sleep with football. The gatherings were not social; sociality is now anonymized with the masses. The masses are polled by mass media and referendums. Mass media and referendums are a simulative system that informs the governments about what the groups think.
BAUDRILLARD AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Baudrillard did not directly analyze social media. Instead, Baudrillard’s social media analysis can be done through his media analysis, simulation, consumer society theory, and mass theory. According to Baudrillard, reality has left its place to simulations. With social media, social life has lost its validity and turned into a virtual life with the help of virtual technologies.
According to Baudrillard, the task of communication and information tools is to produce the truth. However, as a means of communication and information, social media reproduces reality in virtual space with its communication and sharing functions. In social media, individuals create profiles and, while creating these profiles, with constructs and indicators; The fact that it is made with codes in a technical sense reveals that the source of its simulation in social media is codes and indicators.
Individuals are represented by codes in social media, which individuals present by idealizing themselves. Individuals are perfect on social media. According to Baudrillard, this state of perfection is expressed as the absence of imperfection of hyper-realities and reality. Pure reality is imperfect, but hyper-realities are perfect. In social media, individuals are excellent. Because they, too, are hyper-reality.
While there are actual individuals on social media, there are also fake individuals created by real people called trolls in social media jargon. This situation of social media means getting away from reality with a copy of the completed document. Trolls are fake profiles and copies of individual simulacra. Thanks to trolls, individuals on social media are trying to manipulate commercial, political, etc., in many areas.
In terms of understanding social media, it is essential to understand Baudrillard’s silent masses. Just like in Disneyland, social media offers people endless entertainment areas. Games, videos with colourful shows on computers with plenty of light, and the presentation of all these in the comfort of home or through mobile platforms are enough to keep people busy on social media. Primarily through interactive online games and live videos, people live with simulations in a fictional universe in masses.
Nowadays, it is possible to find everything you are looking for in shopping malls on social media. It is seen that products are sold by barter method or in return for money through shares or live broadcasts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It is seen that human simulations are also included in consumption simulations on these platforms, where even sexuality can be purchased.
The reflections of social relations on social media are like hyper-reality. The more ambiguous the distinction between the real and the fake in hyper-realities, the more uncertain the reality and falsity in social relations in social media is. While many communication components, such as facial expressions, body language, etc., can be used together in face-to-face connections, we can use these components in a limited way in social media. If interpreted from a futuristic perspective, all communication components with augmented reality technologies will be used in social media platforms over time.