Body language on the internet

The like button, or the option to like, is a tool used through virtual communication softwares such as social media, internet forums, sites and blogs where users can express what they like, enjoy or support certain content. Which is the social, cultural and economic impact of this tool which allows to express and accumulate the feeling of liking or being liked without sharing a single word or physical interaction but with a simple gesture of a virtual hand pointing a thumb up?

I am specially interested in the relationship between the fact of liking and the body, from the perspective of contemporary digital culture. 


One of major the changes in the way we socialize and communicate in the XXI century has been the invention of the Internet, with communicative possibilities such as social networks and the big amount of devices that accompany it. In this new form of communication, the presence (absence) of the body is slowly defining new virtual gestures, symbols and codes to allow expressing emotions, which can only be transmitted through the screen. The act of communication through internet has shifted the value of the body and has created a hierarchy of the senses. Mostly, the sense that dominates western societies is the view. The next most important sense is the hearing. Senses such as taste, touch, smell, are left at the bottom of the scale (Le Breton, 2002: 102). Through new technologies we could say that the last two senses we mentioned, has disappeared completely. The truths of nature, cease to be accessible to sensory evidence, so rational calculation becomes necessary (Le Breton, 2002: 72). Csordas, speaks not of the body as an object of study in relation to the culture, but as the subject of culture. To refer to this view, he uses the term “embodiment” (Csordas, 1990: 5). Thus, the "embodiment" has as main feature the collapse of dualities between body and mind, subject and object (Csordas, 1990: 7). Merlau-Ponty similarly speaks of perception in relation to the body, which states that the objects are a secondoary product of reflective thinking and perception is by nature indeterminate. That is: it is not experientially true. The eye perception through sight, will allways mark the observed as an object separated from the observer (subject). The eye therefore leads to objectify everything possible to perceive and think. Merleau-Ponty proposes a vision and experience from the body, giving focus the “relationship”, to the links that binds together the objects and not to the objects themselves. Bourdieu also exposes how the social world consists not only of objective structures but also representations and perceptions (Juliet Capdevielle, 2011: 34) and the study proposes to overcome the false dichotomy between the objective and subjective. 

Is it possible to carry out this experience through the body through new technologies? If not, which are the effects of this increasing digital relationships in relation to the body?

The proposals of Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu and Csordas comes to a common point: the interest for experienceing the world through the body, the dissolution of a vision based on the dichotomy between the objective and the subjective and the integration of the body as a subject in relation to the world. Taking these premises as the starting point of the analysis and confronted to the virtual fact of liking, a new concept of the body is revealed, which is not subject to the direct experience of it (the body) with the world. The physical experience disappears through the Internet and is replaced by a perceiving, by a thinking, visualizing and liking and image of the body (object).

From Descartes until today, several philosophers have proposed theories proposing a non dualistic vision and notions of the body-mind. However, through the screen, we see that the notion of subject and body-object are accentuated. Personally, I have noticed in recent years, a general trend in society towards holistic(non dualístic) disciplines and visions. There has been an increased interest in physical activities such as dance, sports, yoga, martial arts; most disciplines related to body experience with a non dualístic nature and often influenced by eastern culture. 

Is this growing interest in western societis a way to alleviate this reduced physical experience through the internet? Where does this desire for these physical and holistic practices comes from? Which is the relation, the links and cultural understanding we are creating   with between East and West? Is the western world creating a collective conviction of paradigm shift stuck in an intellectual framework (empty of content or real meaning)? Are we hiding behind a flag of holistic body practises, useing an image of eastern influenced vision to sell and obtein, to poses a holistic health, stability, peace.… and others? Are we basically still based on Descartes premises as three centuries ago?

Is the virtual experience, implying distance and alienation of ourselfs? and is this the reason of the increasing interest for holistic body practises? 

The body, forgotten under a fluorescent light of the hostile digital screen, sitting for hours at home, at the bus, at the train, at work, has becomed a forgotten case, a container of thoughts which travels at vertiginous speed worldwide, through virtual landscapes with the simple click of a finger. The body seems to have becomed the invisible medium through which a network of relations with various purposes (economic, social, cultural) are interlaced and develop. Le Breton, in an article exposes how in western society today, we are judged, known, loved and hated depending on the appearance, and how the relationships through this medium are dehumanized.










LE BRETON, David, 1999: Adiós al cuerpo. Editions Métailé, Paris. Introducción: Un borrador del cuerpo, I Cuerpo accesorio.

LE BRETON, David, 2010: La Nación. ”Internet es el universo de la máscara”.

LE BRETON, David, 1990: Antropologia del cuerpo y modernidad. Capitulo I i II.

FOUCAULT, Michele, 1975: HISTORIA DE LA SEXUALIDAD I. Nosotros los victorianos.

MARTINEZ BARREIRO, Anna Maria, 2004: La construcción social del cuerpo en las sociedades contemporáneas. Universidad de A Coruña. Departamento de Sociología y Ciencia Política y de la Administración.

CSORDAS, Thomas J., 1990:  “Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology”

DEVILLARD, Maria José, 2002: “De los discursos antropológicos sobre naturaleza, cuerpo y cultura”. Dpto. de Antropología Social. Facultad de CC. Políticas y Sociología.