I recently visited an art exhibit put together by Kelsey Sharpe, a film and anthropology student at Oberlin College, titled "SCREENs: An Art Installation Challenging the Digital Self" which sought to highlight the negative aspects of living in the digital age, especially the impact of social and mass media.

The only reason I found out about this art installation is that a friend of mine was a part of it, and I'm so glad I went.

First off, it was held in an inconspicuous location, and if I wasn't looking for it I would have easily passed by without knowing. Someone was standing at the entrance and handed us a few papers that outlined what the exhibit was about and what to expect from it. The first page was about how technology and media are created to improve connections with other people - can sometimes do the opposite. Another main point was about how the media shapes our perceptions and opinions about everything, and how we need to learn how to think for ourselves and not let mass media completely control our lives.

As soon as we entered the building, there was a black curtain that we had to walk through. The space was dark, but the sharp light of television and cell phone screens cut through that darkness. The whole space was divided into six different sections as well as one separate section upstairs.

One of the first sections had a bunch of screens and destroyed pieces of technology with a glitching video projected on the wall. Next was a piece called "The Living Room," where live models aimlessly stared off in a set that looked like a living room. This particular part was interesting to me because one girl was sitting on the couch staring at the television screen, but it was just static; then she'd pick up the remote and change the channel...to more static. The guy in the living room kept letting his eyes drift everywhere, but not necessarily in search of anything. At one point, he was holding a magazine right in front of his face, but it was upside down.


My favorite part of the exhibit was the section titled Café. The set looked just like a cafe, with live models acting as waiters walking around and guests sitting at tables. What was off was that no one was interacting with each other, and everyone had a device in their hands, eyes glued to their screens. This was the most realistic piece to me because it mirrored almost exactly what I see every day. Whether it be on the train, waiting for class to start, or even spending time with a group of friends - our devices distract us from our present surroundings.

Upstairs was a box that fit one large person or two small people. It was lined completely with mirrors - on the walls, ceiling, and floor - and had all-blue lighting. I'm not 100% sure what the message of this was, but it looked cool.

Lastly, there were copies of an essay laid out on a table, which of course I grabbed and read on my train ride home. This essay, by Quinn Williamson, was about the influence of mass media. Williamson discusses three theories on how mass media influences society. The one theory I want to talk about in this article has to do with subliminal messages in the media, and how people are constantly connected; and by that, I mean people are always scrolling through feeds and timelines, which in turn can manipulate the way we think.

For me, personally, this is sort of the same view I have towards social media. Lately, I've been trying to limit the amount of time I spend online. Mainly because social media is so superficial. How people portray themselves on the internet isn't necessarily an accurate reflection of them in real life. Another thing I've noticed is with Twitter: people post their opinions, and whether or not their opinion is valid, they get hundreds or even thousands of likes and retweets - which in the social media culture is a sign of validation. However, I don't believe in giving likes and shares that much weight on the meaningfulness of content. I think social media is just a highlight reel of everyone's lives. Even if someone has the most genuine and true page, you still would not fully understand that person unless you actually had a conversation with them and really got to know them. A person's Instagram or Twitter is not them; it is a brief impression of them.

After this extensive description of the space, you can get a general idea of what the artists were trying to tell us as viewers, readers, and consumers. This is the digital age after all, and since we know that, we must be aware of everything that is published for us to see. With literally everything we need to know, a plethora of both random and useful information, we still need to have the ability to think for ourselves and form our own opinions.