Leoncio Barrios: The communication society is ephemeral

Barrios is a psychologist and communicator. Photo Carlos Ancheta

Four years ago a photo was taken with a poster of Diosa Canales. He uploaded it to his personal Facebook account and got about 100 users to react positively. On the other hand, the opinion column that he was writing at that time on the Contrapunto portal, did not reach 10. Leoncio Barrios, psychologist, former professor at the UCV School of Social Communication, author of the book Los scares del sexo, among others, he wondered at that moment: "Could it be that I become a porn actor?"

He is currently a columnist for Efecto Cocuyo, but those who know him know that his passion is dance, which in pre-pandemic times organized the BAL (Open Air Dance) in the Plaza de Los Palos Grandes. Now he is in Madrid, waiting to be vaccinated to return to Venezuela. The subject of digital networks is not alien to him, so we went to the meeting digitally.

—The transmission of communications has changed, has the human being changed?

—Generally we assume that technological changes are products of mentality changes in human beings. There is an intelligence, which is not artificial, which has developed in recent generations and which points to virtuality rather than physicality. What has basically changed is the way we interact. Therein lies the impact of these technologies, to the point that they are called "social networks", assuming that this is the "natural", logical way of communicating and that the social thing is that you communicate virtually. The social is not the physical encounter, the face to face, shaking hands, much less now because of the pandemic or the hug, or sitting down to have a coffee, but rather chatting, sending a message, “I saw you on Instagram”, reviewing the sad notices that Facebook has become, which used to be more festive with birthdays. They are virtual social worlds that are there for us to expose ourselves and have been redefining the way we communicate.

While Barrios reflects that when someone writes "the news spread", he asks "what came in the thought of 15 or 20 years ago?" And the answer is: “by the media. Hey, wait! By the media? What means of communication? Where are they? Who is exposed in these media? The media have been digitized, they are online. Is the Internet the great means of communication? "

—The network ended up covering the communication system that in the 30th century was founded on four pillars: press, radio, television and cinema. It was taught and written about these columns, but it turns out that XNUMX years later they were minimized and, to top it all, the perception was already developing that networks were what governed social communication and with the pandemic this form of communication ended up being enthroned. We have been communicating almost exclusively for a year and a half in this way and in these ways.

—It was also taught that the tabloid, sensationalist media were despicable, but with digital networks the transmission of this type of information has become normal.

—The communication paradigm changed radically, because journalism, in terms of the information that is transmitted, is not exercised by journalists, by people from the academy, but by anyone who has access to the network. The monopoly of communication, in terms of maintaining the academic canons, was owned by the journalist by having a training, conceptualization and way of transmitting the information that had been learned in communication or journalism schools. I am not talking about the schools created in the 60s here, but about those that were created in the middle of the last century and that made journalism a profession. Not because they were graduates of the academy but because they had made journalism their vocation, exercise, trade and profession. There were rules about what to report and how. Different types of sections were created for the information to be published through each channel, but with the advent of digital technology and the emergence of networks, the communicator stopped being a professional, someone who needs to go to a university to train to be replaced by the influencer, whose "information" reaches his millions of followers in real time regardless of where they are in the world.

"The press, in the traditional sense, even through the networks works with other times," says Barrios, because it assumes that journalists are "working, investigating, checking the information. While doing this corroboration, the 'information' has circulated arbitrarily on the networks, in which the influencers decided to transmit. And when it begins to be reproduced on the different digital platforms, it runs like the “rumor game”, it does not run alone, but is accompanied by the comments that people add and sometimes the comment becomes the 'news' ”.

—It is a new conception of how we inform ourselves and the quality of the information we are receiving, which is very risky, false news became part of the daily news and the receiver, who is on the networks, does not have the capacity to discriminate between what is true information and what is false information.

—The media are not pristine either, they have interests as well as the users in the networks ...


- What is the need for speed of these times in terms of communication?

—It is the characteristic of this new medium that has put us before the new paradigm: temporality. You work with information that travels virtually, that does not have to wait to be printed, to pass through a newsroom or to reach the newscaster of the television channel or radio station, but rather flows in a continuous way without the mediation of the processes that previously allowed to have a higher quality or reliability information. These media are immediate, not because they defined it. However, time does not exist on the web. It is as if we assume that the immediate is a new category of time, in the sense that before we measured time by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, etc., now in less than seconds the "information" is circulating and is available to millions of people. This has radically changed the way information is transmitted, processed and received.

Are these users not reproducing the interests of the hegemonic media?

—That communication was lost and is now in the hands of the media users, who have become a medium themselves. Yellowing, sensationalism, predominates because this medium, which is the network, is in the hands of the citizen and the common citizen, who like the possibility of speculating with that information, of handling it at will, who do not have only ideological intentions, political, economic, but it is a pleasure that has to do with morbidness, with the power to say some things that otherwise would not have the possibility or the space to say it.

—And without being specialists in law, they become judges, too.

—It is that in life we ​​are judges. Every time we approach a person we do so from an evaluative perspective and interpersonal communication has a high evaluative value. We handle a repertoire of adjectives, qualifiers, when we approach another third person. And each qualifying adjective is a judgment, which is what judges do. Socially, we are judges of others, who also have a lot of morals, of shaping the values ​​of each one of us. Undoubtedly each of these judgments is subjective. Unlike what could be a formal trial through "due process" that is supposed to be subject to procedures, the contents of laws, regulations and what is stipulated that must be done in the event of the offense or crime committed. . But in everyday life there is no due process. What predominates is how you have learned to evaluate. We constantly live in communicational terms, in relating to each other, in a value judgment and through networks this hypertrophy. Sometimes you have an impression of someone. He thinks about it, but he does not express it in verb, perhaps in corporal expression, but in verb it is much more delicate to express some things in relation to a third person, but it turns out, and here we enter another characteristic of contemporary communication, here the anonymity. By being able to cover yourself with a pseudonym, a mask on the avatar, you are nobody but you are a lot, because it turns out that behind anonymity you assume the power to say what you like about whoever you want in the terms you want, if they resist the royalties that these platforms have. Some things you cannot say on Facebook or Instagram, but on Twitter you can, because it is more flexible in terms of image and content.

- Regardless of anonymity, there are those who feel that in the networks they can do justice, individually and according to their perceptions, when a crime has been committed. We have attended virtual lynchings. The debate on abuses and rapes has gained relevance in networks, however, issues such as prostitution and other forms of exploitation of women are invisible in these spaces. Is there a double standard?

—Undoubtedly, because one of the characteristics of this contemporary communication is trends. If the subject does not become one, it is lost in the great tangle that is woven in the networks. A social sector or the influencer are those that determine what the trends are. I do not have precise data on the access and use of the networks in Venezuela, but I start from the assumption that the resource of the networks depends on the possession of a digital telephone that has memory capacity, of which now are called "smart", access to a computer, but it must also have Internet, electric light. They are a series of elements that imply disposition of money and that is a mirror effect, of the socioeconomic sectors of society and the possession of access to communication, although it is increasingly popular, in the sense of reaching the popular sectors of this type Of communication, the access they have with respect to the upper-middle class and the middle class is still very distant, in terms of access to technology. So, the vision we have of the world, the country, the city, the municipality, the urbanization and the neighborhood, is the vision that this social sector is transmitting. What is not in the network, as it was said before in the media, that if you did not appear on television, you did not exist; or if the news did not appear in the press, the fact had not happened. Now, if you are not in the network, you are nobody, you do not exist. If that information is not on the networks, it has not happened. The role of influencers influence what these trends are and what needs to be said about it, because the opinion about a certain information on the networks is accompanied by the desire for it to produce many "likes", reproductions through retweeting , share, or any of the ways that digital platforms present to reproduce the information. If it becomes a trend, it is the public agenda. And if the network is in the hands of social groups from the wealthy sectors, it is also in the hands of the Government, which has a very particular power. It is not exactly a socialized access in the terms that we could all have equal access to these networks

. — Trends are ephemeral.
—Because the information society has become ephemeral. We stop at nothing. To our regret, these networks can offer us a lot of information that may be of interest to deepen, but we have to dig deeper, go beyond what is on the screen, and the vast majority of people stay in the immediate. It is the ephemeral, that disappears.

- Those who are not ephemeral are the owners of the networks that censor even Presidents of the Republics. They stand as bastions of truthful information. Why should we stay in these networks in which in addition to censoring us, they benefit financially?

—For a pragmatic vision that guides us all, because through these platforms you will have visibility and see people who interest you It is the use that is going to be given and not what the medium represents. The terrifying thing is that we give all our personal information to that platform, and you don't stop to think what they do with that information. There is something egomaniacal in each of us in relation to the networks because every time we open them and we find that you are first on the screen and they have given you 188 “likes” in less than an hour and that they have retweeted it many times, that is a massage for the ego, considering itself important, that people "love you", follow you, obviously, and a series of interpretations that could be far from reality. You go to Facebook and have 2.888 friends, but it turns out that maybe you know about 80, and of those maybe you assume that there are five of your friends and the rest, you don't know where that social world comes from. The important thing is to have visibility with personal and family photos, of those who want to show their boobs or biceps, etc., where there is a narcissistic thing. And the more urban society is, the more anonymous we are because it is one of the characteristics of modernism, that identity is being lost, and it turns out that the networks have given us a great gift, which is to be individuals again. Let people see you, say, send birthday wishes.

Barrios expresses that "there is a new feeling with the networks", but also considers that the Venezuelan Me too is very valuable, with the testimonies of women of any age who expose having been sexually abused because for years, "who have accompanied the women in terms of stopping violence against women, of stopping sexist violence, one of the great difficulties has been the silence of those who have been mistreated, raped ”.

—The characteristics of the networks, of anonymity, of which you do not necessarily have to face, which in other areas you would not dare to say. For one reason, which is shame, fear of judgment, and it turns out that in these new generations, fear has decreased in relation to what other generations are.

- Could the Venezuelan Me Too be the spark that raises the feminist movement in the country?

—What is happening with the complaints is the recognition that this is a much more widespread problem, frequent, because as it has been a well-kept secret for centuries, it has now become a platform for struggle and a protest speech.

—How do you see this movement in the future in Venezuela?

—I see it present, in the immediate. Because in a matter of hours, days, we have learned more about what happens about that particular problem in Venezuela than in the 100 years that preceded it that week. This has to move to sensitivity. There has already been a response from the Attorney General of the Republic: receiving complaints of this type of crime. It is very possible that it will occur in the country, because the conditions are in place for the "Law for a life free of violence", which is one of the models in Latin America in legal recourse in defense of women's rights, to be updated in the National Assembly. But this is because the offices for complaints and the defense of women's rights have been opened in the different ombudsmen. Women are talking more, saying the first and last names of the attackers. If the country is in line with its citizens, it is possible that very interesting things will emerge in this regard. This will also depend on the political events that have to do with a political situation as difficult as ours.



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