Mulan Fu

I’m taking inspiration from the digital truth serum concept. That people lie and present a very static, fake aspect of themselves in reality. But somehow online, so much more of the truthful side of us is represented through data. In a sense we’re more ‘true’ in the virtual world than how people think of us in reality. That’s where the imagery is coming from. Outside the phone, looking at it is a very fake, fictional representation of us and going through the phone is the actual self. Going through this experience, injecting all feelings and questions and time into the phone. On social media and the internet. Obviously, it’s not happy. But it’s a truthful, neutral version of ourselves that emerges from what we do on the internet.

The reason that the character on the outside of the phone has a really forced and exaggerated smile is because people want others to think of themselves in reality as having the best time of their lives. But that’s always not true. It’s always a painful facade that people put up through what they think they’re representing through social media. What they think people in reality are taking away from their social media. But only big data knows how depressed they are.

I remember just now I changed the person’s expression multiple times. It started off being somehow a lot more depressed and negative. But then I changed it to a more ambiguous but definitely not positive facial expression. I think numbness is part of it. The neutrality of how things are presented in virtual space. Of course the data captures happy moments. Or the parts that we show off on social media or online about how great our life has been, our achievements. But the searches that you make on Google, ‘is it normal that I’m sad?’ or ‘is it normal that I want to harm myself?’ That’s all captured through big data as well. So the person’s face represents a full spectrum of emotion.

This is how I think people are. If you ask big data to describe us it would be this face.

Another reason the face is like this is if you observe people on their phone, that’s their face. Even when they type ‘hahaha’ or ‘lol’ they don’t laugh. They don’t have a facial expression. That’s the face we use when looking at our phones. Maybe some emotional changes are internal, but… it’s really daunting how people don’t really show it on the outside.

The reason this isn’t made the other way around is because when you type ‘lol’ people think you’re laughing. They believe that you, in reality, are laughing. But only your phone knows that you’re not.

If we see so much of ourselves through a flat surface, it makes everything into a one-dimensional, at most two-dimensional perspective on the world.

People have so many more monsters than just one. Just based on my observations of how people want to represent themselves and how they want people to think of them in reality, they want to paint pictures of people worth hiring or being jealous of. The majority don’t show off the negative side. The reason why it’s a monstrous shape is because of how complex and how much  pretension is put into the virtual space.

Another reason I didn’t draw it the other way or show what the monster is looking at on the phone is because you don’t know. It could be that it’s a selfie they’re taking and that’s what they see. It could be them looking at their own social media posts and that’s what they think they are. Or they’re looking at other peoples’ social media posts.

But when you crawl out of that you feel that numbness.

For me I would rather be on the numb side, the other side.

At least I’m myself, in a sense.

Mulan Fu

Mulan Fu is an award-winning filmmaker, animator, and illustrator currently based in New York City and Shanghai. Her commercial work ranges from 2D cel animation, motion graphics, illustration to animated production creative development. She has recently graduated from the Film and Television major at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and is currently pursuing a master's degree in educational game design at Teachers College Columbia University.

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