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A lamentable aspect of friendship involves watching movies.

Specifically, when one friend has seen the film and the other hasn’t. For me, it’s a simple truth- not because I’m (that) disagreeable, moody or withdrawn, but because some of my friends succumb to the temptation of announcement. You know who you are.

We’ve all been there:

A living room, two friends, X and Y are midway through a film:

The beautiful cupola by Jemima Gibbons,
on the RSA Flickr Group


X: Oh, this part- mate, this, this is such a funny bit- watch this:

Event happens in the movie.

X reels with laughter, seeks confirmation from Y that it was, truly, oh so funny.

Y is silent.

X: Wasn’t it funny? I love that part. 


End Scene. 

In Hitch-22 , the late Christopher Hitchens cited Theodore Adorno on this point:

Adorno made a beautiful corkscrew or double-helix-shaped aphorism about the Hays Office, which was then the headquarters of moralistic and ideological invigilation of the movie industry. Under its unsmiling rules, no double beds could be shown, no “race-mixing,” no untoward conduct or risqué speech. Nonetheless, ventured Adorno, an intellectually and aesthetically satisfying film could be made, observing all the limitations prescribed by the Hays Office, on the sole condition that there was no Hays Office.

Or, by enforcing, endorsing or applying a proposition or plan, one defeats or perverts the intended outcome. Y almost certainly would have found the part in the movie funny if only X hadn’t announced its funniness. Or the deflation New Year’s Eve revellers feel after making overzealous declarations of debauchery at the start of the night. A Parisian friend swears the least romantic thing a handholding date can do is swoon at the Eiffel tower, pout beneath his fringe and say ‘oh isn’t it romantic’? Feel free to add your own.

New technologies and social media however influence behaviour subtly. They permeate our lives ubiquitously, allowing us to snap, update and share wherever we like. So frequent is our online activity that we’re amateur photographers, reporters or commenters without even realising it. Of course, activity and accomplishment are not the same things; I’m not suggesting that a photo of dinner or giving the peace sign before a monument will be recognised by the WPO.

Why do we do it? Well, precisely because there is no imperative to do so. People seem to prefer doing things without overt prompting or advertising. I’m certain the Social Brain team here in the RSA can explain or refute this with something more than mere assertion. But consider it: using a social network is not normally the result of a heavy-handed advertising campaign. Indeed, all David Dimbleby has to say during Question Time is ‘if you’re following us on Twitter, the hashtag is-”. If.

Arts and Commerce Promoted by Dawn
Darby on the RSA Flickr Group

Therefore, you don’t need me to tell you that you can interact with the RSA through social media. In fact, given Adorno’s gorgeous thought-problem, you’d probably cringe with shame if another human being told you that it was ‘really great to upload your photos to our Flickr group’.

So I’m not. I’m just going to leave a link here, which you can choose to click or not: RSA Flickr Group.

Whether or not you click on the first group in the list, I promise not to tell you how  fun it is, or how much I love it or how it’s my absolute favourite site…..

Gurmeet Singh is a Fellowship Researcher. You can contact him on


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