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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Final Major Project: The Exhibition – Discussions With Viewers

The people of Stroud were very keen to discuss the ideas expressed in the exhibition. I spent a good proportion of each day discussing social media and the effects it has on some people.

Most viewers expressed a real concern for the future. Being unable to communicate with people in a face-to-face situation was one concern. As humans, our communication is not just verbal, we rely on body language and characterisms to enable us to interpret a conversation. These are things that get missed online.

Many discussions covered issues with mental health and anxiety caused by comparing oneself to others online. We have always compared ourselves to other people, but the ubiquitous nature of smartphones means that we are bombarded with visual stimulus. And the more we get, the more we want. Addiction to smartphones is on the rise.

One young man I spoke to told me that he only posts to Instagram when he is very anxious. The posts he uploads are always very positive and happy. But, even when he has posted these images, he worries about them. He showed me a stunning photograph of himself in a waterfall that his friend had taken a few years ago. The water was blue and clear and the scene looked very idyllic. But, that is not what happened. He recalled the place being very busy, packed with tourists. He had to stand in the waterfall with what felt like hundreds of other people taking photographs of the same scene. However, he has an image that looks like he was alone. He has then edited the image to increase the intensity of the blue water.

He sat talking to me and looking at the work for over an hour. He expressed that he worries when taking photographs. His main concern is “will the image be good enough for Instagram”. He knows that this is obsessive behaviour and that it is unhealthy.

Conversations like the one with the young man, and others like him, encourage me to take this project as far as I can to try and make a difference to other people.

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