Covid-19, Social Media, and Desire for Omnipresence: The Search for the Resurrected Body of Christ

Since the pandemic spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2 or “Covid-19” globally took place in 2020, life has become increasingly online. Schools and universities had to adapt their classes to distance learning platforms; restaurants and cafes shut down and started operating through take away only; physical business quickly shifted into online stores; families and friends who would often physically meet each other, had to remotely talk though video call Apps. While big tech companies like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon recorded their highest revenue rates, many people all over the world lost their jobs and/or had to reinvent themselves working from home. In this overwhelming storm of digital gateways, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Reels and Snapchat escalated their levels of use and abuse, capturing even more deeply our lifetime and attention as a commodity for distraction, addiction, control and manipulation. Why is it no longer enough to be in the offline ordinariness of the here and now?

It was only after incessantly asking myself why I am still on Facebook even being aware of their very promiscuous personal traces and marketing policies, that a new angle of the problem took shape: there is something beyond our critical thinking, rationality or any kind of logic playing out. It is a desire. An intense and uncontrollable of what I called “desire for omnipresence” (Mozzini-Alister, 2018) A desire for simultaneously inhabiting distinct space-times, for concomitantly being here and there, in the space of the physical body and in the space of the mediated body. A desire for being more than just a body. A desire for overcoming the very own human condition. A desire for extending the limits of arms, legs, and vision. A desire for being superhuman, divine. What is it at stake in this process of exchanging our personal data for the endless desire to communicate?

To start addressing this question, let us first place it in what Vilém Flusser (2008) titled the “Ladder of Abstraction”. In it, Flusser states that for us to become aware of the concreteness of the world, we would first take distance from it in order to grasp it better via intermediates of things called “technical images”. Instead of grasping a tree itself, for example, we would move away from it, using our fingertips to press the buttons and then have a pictorial representation of such tree in our hands. As manifestations of the highest degree of abstraction in relation to the concrete world, technical images would be, in a nutshell, images that do not need the direct action of the human hand due to the mediation of devices that work just like black boxes: hermetic, automatized, and programmed. Taking the analogic photography as the first model of technical image, Flusser argued that the decisive factor in deciphering images is the analysis of their planes of inscription.

Following this line of thought, today our hegemonic planes are the smartphone planes: how would their materiality serve as a clue to understand this current desire for omnipresence? Different from “dumb phones”, “smartphones” are digitally connected apparatuses with a very interesting material surface: a photosensitive touchscreen. Not so long ago, our communication devices were equipped with keys protected by an isolating material. Not anymore. Thanks to the invention of ultra-resistant glasses, transparent conducting films (TFC), and symbiotic capacitors, for the first time in humanity we are willingly receiving a nanoshock in order to touch images: it is in the interaction between the electromagnetic fields of fingertips and screen that a minimal fraction of our own energy is extracted in order to activate the device’s electronic circuits. Through this tiny gesture of electrocuting ourselves, we can download social media Apps and create a virtual profile of ourselves. However, how can we comprehend the existence of the profile as an entity? What would be a profile’s anatomy?

There are many aspects to consider on the profile’s physiology. First, it is important to highlight that the profile can only survive in the body of a smart apparatus, be it a smartphone, a tablet or a computer. In the case of the ones with touchscreen technology, they are bodies with only eyes (cameras), ears (phone & microphone) and skin (screen). No mouth, nose, digestive system or sexual organs. Without excretions, they are capable of receiving and storing pure energy directly from the plug without the need of chewing or grinding everything they put inside their batteries. And due to the electric symbiosis between human body and the device’s body through the shock, two new senses are added to the person via the profile: first, we are equipped with eyes on the fingertips allowing us to see our own face on the screen; and secondly, we are given arms that are electromagnetically stretchable providing us the possibility of touching whoever is geographically distant. Finally, the Narcissus’s repressed dream came true and we now can see the sharpness of our own image without the risk of drowning as we are trying to grasp it better – as well as we can also see the image of others and reach them though a scroll, a like, a comment, a share, a message.

With this sense of an enlarged and ever-reaching body, humans now experience the paradoxical feeling of embracing the whole world in the palm of their phones through the wireless extension of arms. And that is the “nature” of the social media profile: it is an entity deprived of the survival instincts of sleep, eat, fear and sex, and that is always accessible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, simultaneously present in any other smart screen on the planet. Ever present, ever awake, sexless, beyond eating, and incapable of feeling fear. This technical desire to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent as if we were God Itself is the apex of our vanity. That because, unfortunately, our hegemonic anthropotechnics have adopted, as a model of body, the materiality of the resurrected body of Christ (Romandini, 2012). By anthropotechnics we mean the “techniques through which human communities and the individuals who compose them act upon their own animal nature with the goal of guiding, expanding, modifying or domesticating their biological substratum” (Romandini 2012, p. 9). Therefore, possessed by the subconscious desire of expanding the body’s presential limits through the eradication of our own animality, the internet promise of limitlessness is finally materialized by the social media profile: it is a form that, inscripted in smart technologies, traverses every wall and encounters no boundaries, moves elsewhere and faces no delays, soars high above and overcomes even gravity itself. But above all, it is a form capable of “perceiving without being affected” (Romandini 2012, p. 217), that means, a form that is able to perceive the fire, but does not get burn with it.

By ironically reversing the initial dynamic between creator and creature, now people made of flesh and bones are seeking to become as an image and likeness of their virtual profiles in order to transform their bodies into a body of light (Mozzini-Alister, 2018). A body of light, that is, bodies on a higher level emancipated from their mammalian condition for not having glands, nerves, and hormones secretion that force us into the loneliness of feeling. No one can feel for us. No one can alleviate the anger, the sorrow, the fear, the anguish, the mourning, the sadness, and the bitterness that only we can truly know how deep they are buried in our chest. To feel hurts. That is the reason why, at all costs, we are becoming anesthetized and searching for strategies to desensitize the corporeal substratum through the simple desire to no longer suffer: we mediate, get numb, get high! And what these three different activities have in common? Well, all of them directly liberate a hormone called “dopamine” – a neurotransmitter that acts on the control of movement, on the memory, and on the cycle of pleasure and reward highly related to addiction. Therefore, by the constant stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system through social media use, we foolishly try to bypass the pain of trauma and the discomfortable emotions of our basic instincts via technologies designed to be addictive. Not a very “smart” choice, isn’t?

In this sense, amidst these pandemic times of social isolation and online impregnation, it is also time to go beyond being in “favor” or “against” technology, or seeing it as our “salvation” or our “perdition.” The matter is giving it limits. For that, simple adjustments can help, for example: turning off the phone two hours before sleep, buying the good and old alarm clock to wake up, reinstalling the outdated home phone in case of emergencies, deactivating social media notifications, as well as practicing mindfulness, reading a book, taking a sunbath, putting hands and feet on the grass... The real change can only happen when we actively decide to transform our desire for omnipresence into a desire for presence. When we give up the need to control, be everywhere, and know everything in order to just be, giving more and more space for Aboriginal, Indigenous, and African technologies that have been - or attempted to be - wiped out along “History”. Remember: in between the impulse to digitally connect and the action of doing it, there is a tiny little space of freedom that we can use to make new, unprecedent, and deautomatized choices. In this perspective, I’d rather believe in a world of movies such as “La Belle Verte” (The Green Beautiful) than one of “Ready Player One”. And I’d rather as well turn the never-silenced question made by Espinosa into an open invitation for us to, yes, become unlimited, but unlimited within the limits of our own bodies:

“After all, what can a body do?”


Flusser, Vilém (2008). O Universo das Imagens Técnicas – Elogio da Superficialidade. São Paulo: Annablume.

Mozzini-Alister, Camila (2018). Cuerpos de luz: afectos de la imagen ubicua [Tesis doctoral no publicada]. (PhD), Universitat Politècnica de València. doi:10.4995/Thesis/10251/111835.

Romandini, Fabián Ludueña (2012). A comunidade dos espectros. I. Antropotecnia. Alexandre Nodari e Leonardo D’Ávila de Oliveira (trads.). Desterro, Florianópolis: Cultura e Barbárie.

* This article was published at Biblioteca de la Filosofía Venidera, Argentina.