Wednesday, 28 October 2020

E Editorial

A Way Out of Virtual Reality

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Since 2018 we have largely been living in a virtual reality.  Life unravels in the social media, and so too does political struggle.

The "velvet revolution" itself took place in the virtual domain, with live reports streaming online from the demonstrations to engage Armenians from America and Russia to Burkina Faso.  Everyone's heart was beating as one, the same thoughts capturing all.

This is the virtual world, where reality takes back seat.  The picture is more important than what happens in real people's real life.

In virtual reality we already know each other from afar, and it does not matter who is on which continent.  We are in the same "place," in the same informational expanse.  There are social-media heroes, villains, users with proper and improper conduct; they have become part and parcel of our life.  This is the era of virtual heroes.  Yes, the currency of the day is the picture, the image, and the army of followers.

The offline―real life―is a very personal space, and it is natural that when people meet, they want to take photographs and then communicate them, as important events, to everyone else through the social media.

Armenia's prime minister is one of the most active players in virtual life.  He is one of its principal heroes, and even the sessions of government and parliament find their sole meaning in the social networks.  Together with their virtual army of supporters, they carry out their politics, the measure of which is the amount of "likes" and "shares."  Any decline in these markers threatens a government crisis, and vice versa.  Virtual armies and specifically the fans of this or that figure imposes their own politics.

But the "intimate" reality that has been pushed aside of late is making a comeback.  The pandemic has cut us off from real life (we don't meet people as we used to, and we are confined in closed areas), and so we are increasingly surrounded by virtual space.  On the other hand, the pandemic returns us to reality, to real life, with its social problems and the need to solve them.  It is clear that "likes" do not fill stomachs.

The prime minister, as virtual hero of the social media, does not allow most to escape from virtual reality, where life is happy, statistics hopeful, and what was "pilfered from the people" is returned to the "people."  Real life, however, points to the opposite. Among many a cognitive dissonance is developing, with the "reality" offered up by virtual heroes and real "reality" are being pictured very differently.

The contradiction between those two worlds does not hold out much promise.  Of course, it is preferable to live in a virtual life where everything is fine.  How long this can last is still not clear, and this is the main intrigue of the day.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia


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The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Center.

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