Social Media Turns Cursors Into Cursers — Işık Barış Fidaner


The word ‘cursor’ literally means ‘runner’ in Latin; it indicates a marker that runs around the screen as you use your computer. There are two cursor types: A text cursor reflects your keyboard activity whereas a mouse cursor reflects your mouse movements. These two interfaces relate the combinatorial dimension of text to the spatial dimension of the screen [1]. The mouse cursor always runs around the screen whereas the text cursor only appears when you click on a special area on the screen with your mouse cursor. These special text areas reserved for writing mark the lacks in the spatial dimension where the combinatorial dimension can emerge and shine [2].

In social media the mouse cursor spatially explores the timeline. When it clicks to write something the text cursor emerges and gives the user access to the combinatorial dimension of language. This is the subjective aspect: The user’s simple authority to write something is only grounded by his/her will. On the other hand there is the objective aspect: The visual embodiment of the sequence of countless posts, grounded only by the social media system: The timeline is a space-time that is algorithmically synthesized from the combinatorial dimension of current posts [3]. It’s a pseudo-narrative that consists of a uniform sequence of enunciations that are addressed to a pseudo-public.

The user has a very limited control on the algorithmic synthesis of the timeline: (S)he can only authorize or deauthorize certain social media accounts. (S)he is thus forced to categorize ‘good vs. bad’ accounts and decide to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ the ‘good’ ones. But when we say ‘categorize’, the cursor becomes a curser, i.e. the one who curses.

The word ‘category’ literally means ‘accusation’ in Greek. Initially the user seems to categorize the ‘bad apples’ to avoid them. But when the user becomes intensely engaged in categorizing the social media accounts, this eventually leads to accusing people: The social media user eventually begins to throw blanket accusations about certain categories of people. Moreover these accusations get reinforced by anonymous crowds which is why they are called (cursory) ‘lynching’.

The two most common accusations are about being ignorant and being a know-all. It’s not far fetched to call these two accusations ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ respectively. The standard gender regime compels the masculine user to get authorized by a certain knowledge and then begin accusing people of being ignorant (the ‘red pill’ trope serves this accusation); whereas it compels the feminine user to abstract her embodiment from all alien authorizations-by-knowledge and then begin accusing people of being know-all smart-asses (the term ‘mansplaining’ serves this accusation) [4]. Thus social media turns our cursors into cursers.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Spatial and Combinatorial”

[2] Shine alludes to Schein: “the sublime object is simultaneously the surface Schein or ‘grimace,’ a pure semblance devoid of any substantial support, and something ‘more real than reality itself’: in its very capacity of a pure semblance, it ‘gives body’ to a boundary which fixes the limits of (what we experience as) reality, i.e., it holds the place of, stands in for, what has to be excluded, foreclosed, if ‘reality’ is to retain its consistency.” (Slavoj Žižek, Tarrying with the Negative) See also “The Möbius Strip is an Island”

[3] See “The Paradox of the Phallus”

[4] See “The Traversal of the Phallus”


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