Thursday, February 17, 2011

Following

The word "following" has become a widely accepted term of art in 21st-century social media circles. On Twitter, in particular, you can follow someone's posts merely by signing up for them, without any action of assent by the person being followed.

Social media has many benefits. In Tunisia, for example, and again in Egypt, the platform provided by Twitter helped opponents of the regime to organize more effectively - and therefore helped topple the government.

Let's not forget, however, the potentially voyeuristic associations of "following." Christopher Nolan's darkly lit film by that name, from 1998, is a stark reminder of this.

A protagonist without a stable sense of self starts randomly following people on the street. This soon shades into a string of burglaries motivated not so much by money as the creepy thrill of impermissibly breaking into and entering other people's private places.

It's film noir all the way, but it's not darkness for darkness sake. It's a cautionary tale about the seemy underside of the phenomenon of "following."

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