Is Foucault’s Panopticon actually leading to greater societal non-discipline?
In Foucault’s theory, the panopticon was a disciplinary tactic to ensure conforming to societal norms:
This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in l which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the centre and periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead – all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism. (197)
I wonder, though: in this age of social media and over-sharing, are we actually finding ourselves relaxing our standards of decency simply because we see everyone else doing it?
Let’s look at tattoos. A decade ago, tattoos among teens were relatively rare. However, as the Guardian reported in 2010, nearly 30% of teens and adults ages 16-44 have tattoos. In 2008, 36% of Americans aged 18-25 and 40% of those aged 26-40 have tattoos. Those numbers have gone up significantly — is it possible the prevalence of social media has contributed to this?
Think about it: it used to be (at least when I was in high school) the only people getting tattoos were associated with gangs or could be described by my parents as “trouble.” However, that’s probably because I didn’t associate with people who got non-gang related tattoos.
Now, with social media, it’s easier to see updates and photos of tattoos from people just outside your network. Does this make it seem as if tattoos are more common, and therefore not as big of a deal? It’s the same with other similar behavior: drinking, drugs, sex and more are being shared on social media, and that’s causing people who are on the line (those who are more likely to conform to societal norms) to follow along.
I know I’m not doing a great job explaining this, and there are a lot of factors coming into play which are contributing to the rise of behavior that just a few years ago was seen as socially inappropriate.