Our Selves as Digital Zombies


Social media plays a huge role in the transfer and spread of information and content on the web today. The idea of a “mass audience” is beginning to crumble as more and more people join the online world of social networking. The work of Samuel Gerald Collins and Matthew Durington, Anthropology by the Wire, “contest[s] urban imaginaries” of drug use in cities such as Baltimore, through the use of social media platforms.

The city is a fluid idea. As Jonathan Raben said the city will “assume a fixed form around you”. This is the same for the virtual cities we create for ourselves in the online world. We surround ourselves with what interests us, and what inspires us. Around us, content is built, forming a city when producers and consumers work together to create and experience information. Just as in actual cites, this content flow can be studied in an ethnographic way. Anthropologist are able to study an individual and their interactions with the community they have built around them by examining what content they share or receive.

When doing this kind of ethnographic research, it was discovered that their are not just two people involved in the creation and sharing of media, but three. The third body is a “zombie”. This idea is the focus of the article Attack of the Social Media Zombies. These zombies are people who do not create content, or consume it. Instead they share media, posting a link to this Facebook wall, or Tweeting a new video from YouTube. This category is where many of us fall. We define our cities around us by what we consume, but we also add to the cities of others. In order to keep the persona of ourselves in the online world that we want to promote, just like how we dress in certain ways or act in certain ways in real cities. We have become zombies without realizing it, losing our individuality as “the individual and the community disappear into circulatory flows” of information all around us.

So how do we avoid becoming mindless zombies, spreading content like contagion? In some ways, we can’t. Once one cycle stops, more content is thrust our way, and the a new cycle begins. We are stuck in a loop. Who knows if we can ever get out of it.