Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tourists of Fun

A longtime denizen of nightlife, I have noticed a new breed as of late. Camera ready in hand, they take pictures at every opportunity, documenting "how much fun" they are having to show all the world on Facebook. I was at some event recently where I was introduced to a few of this species. I can recall no discernible personality, though they were pleasant enough. What I remember most is their constant picture-taking. To me, there seemed no way for them to actually get into the flow of what has happening all around them. They were oblivious - their awkward machinations, almost robotic in their actions, as if playing off a script. There was no real engagement with their surroundings. The irony of having true fun and connection impeded by the awkward and endless recording of one's life seemed to be lost on them.

Don't get me wrong. My friend runs a nightlife website and I am used to posing for the obligatory photos. I've been told that I have had more photos of me posted over the years than anyone else, a tribute to my ongoing involvement in local dance music culture. It's one thing to interrupt your socializing, dancing, and carousing to strike an occasional pose. It's another to actually not be interrupting anything, but simply to pose as if you are having the time of your life.

It reminds me of a particular way of travelling which I had the misfortunate of experiencing once during a trip to Paris with some other American girls. Our brief stay was a race from landmark to landmark. There was no depth to our excursion. No steeping in Parisian culture. Rather, it was a series of stereotypical photo opportunities. I could have stayed home and seen the same in any standard travel documentary.

So now with Facebook, we have the social movers and shakers who are all show. It's like my lament that LA nightlife looks better on film than in person. In all the years I used to rave and club down there, I saw little real community, at least amongst the non-celebrities. It's a two-dimensional set rather than an immersive scene, and you are an extra. It is all for the eye, to be seen but not felt.

Do these FB clubbers convince themselves that they are having fun? Is it the same as the scientific research which suggests that smiling can induce happiness? It seems so empty and contrived, as I pose for their pictures, colluding in their illusion. I smile and tilt my head, an aesthetically pleasing and fashionable paper doll, there to confirm their status as what? Jet-setting bohemians? Sophisticated party animals? Social butterflies? Yeah right.