How can you be successful on social media? To be clear, in this context ‘successful’ is a synonym of ‘profitable’, because without profit (and a certain degree of adulation) success is essentially meaningless. The answer, it seems, is actually quite simple. Just go ahead and separate the myriad facets of your human identity- your race, gender, sexuality and so on, into a series of palatable and independent elements. Now, rearrange them in such a way that they are palatable and enjoyable to an infinitely wide and varied audience- while maintaining some kind of a unique selling point. If you have the audacity to age, or do something absurd like start a family, that’s fine. You can monetize that too.
The setup of this show suggests that it’s going to be something like a lecture or TED talk, and that’s not fully untrue- there is a powerpoint, and it does contain information. More frequently, however, this structure breaks down into poetry, audience participation, the strange story behind the spelling of Erinn Dhesi’s first name, and so forth. Given this conflict, it could be interesting to see how much further this format could be pushed or tested. Dhesi’s show comes in the aftermath of years of talk about the damaging, unrealistic nature of social media and the brutality of the manufactured social image, and that sense of ‘why are we still doing this?‘ feels particularly relevant here. The problem isn’t that we don’t know, it’s just that we won’t, or can’t, stop.
As the premise of the piece would suggest, the act of cramming an entire personhood into either one online profile or one short hour of stage time will always be impossible. As a performer, Dhesi is hilarious and confident enough that she could definitely afford to take more time on slightly less material- to develop rather than to condense. I don’t think that this is necessary, because there aren’t really any parts that don’t work. However, within the time constraint, it might be nice to see some of it delved into a little further.
I’m always very much aware that this show relies on a lot of contextual knowledge, because to explain internet culture from the ground up, let alone make any meaningful critique of it, will definitely take more than an hour. The critique, therefore, all lands on the ears of people who are probably complicit in some way. Despite the limitations of audience and form, this piece takes a genuinely interesting angle on the looming ‘what next?‘ that comes with engaging with internet culture in any way. We know it’s not real, we know that a profile isn’t a whole person, and yet we’re all still here.