This logic is not new in Web 2.0. Even in the age of television, do we not like to turn it on all the time even if we do not watch it? The reason, of course, is not the standard one where the TV set is just turned on for some cheap background music or similar reasons, but instead, as some theorists [names needed] have put it, the TV set is turned on to constantly watch us. The gaze is passive, as Lacan was already well aware, and we enjoy films not because we are passive observers, but we have the illusion that the films need us to become properly films. We turn on the TV set because deep down we know it will make the TV set happy.
Likewise, the real problem of the the Web is not this vast overflow of data which we can no longer consume. It’s how we have become obsessed with organizing data as such so that it can properly consume us as proper, visible human beings in all our daily stupidity. Is that not why we developed Web 2.0 in first place — to be sure that we are watched all the time, while we can pretend to watch others while not having to really do it?
Indeed, ambient awareness and being disconnected is not at all paradoxical. It’s not even a matter of which side of the screen we are on — even in online life, I claim, the logic is the same: it is data that watches us, not us consuming data. It is not ourselves, the stupid daily people, that we want to make aware of everything. It is this impossible entity who we assume to have the power to observe everything that has to be pleased. Our role is to provide constant information for this impossible entity, this superego gaze that embody the whole internet. Is this not the reason Twitter is so popular today?
The Web is our Nazca lines to a big Other android. The function of the Internet is not to make each of us connected to everybody else. It is to connect each of us to an impossible, divine entity that we desire to be watched by. Is this not why most of us get anxious when we are offline for too long, as though our entire existence depended on it? To quote Flox, “I think therefore I am, right—but is a thought not really a thought unless it’s a tweet?”