In small, meaningful quotes on themselves. Indeed,

In
recent years, a cultural trend has emerged among young women who have gone
under the needle to tattoo small, meaningful quotes on themselves. Indeed, a quick
scroll through the social media feed of any Generation Z young adult would
confirm this observation. A physical manifestation of independence and
self-expression, this trend was not lost in Emily St. John Mandel’s inventive
novel Station Eleven. In the
post-apocalyptic setting of a deadly pandemic’s fallout, one of the story’s
main characters bears a tattoo which reads “survival is insufficient.” Given
that Mandel published Station Eleven
in 2014, it is unsurprising that the narrative is riddled with more current
motifs and allusions to the interconnectedness of the modern world with
reference social networks. However, just as survival is insufficient for the
characters of Station Eleven, so too is today’s accepted definition of a
“social network” insufficient for the varied meanings taken throughout Station Eleven.

            The Cambridge Dictionary defines a social network both as
a website or computer program for communication and a group of interconnected
individuals (“social network”). Although not entirely false, the conventional
idea of a social network places limits on its more complex interpretations.
Having been slightly muddled in light of a recent technological revolution, Mandel
offers a scenario in which the former definition is no longer possible due to
the near extinction of the human population. Chapter six, for example, consists
of an incomplete list of things lost in the apocalyptic aftermath: “No more
Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams
and nervous hopes… No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and
in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room” (Mandel 32). Mandel
seems critical of social media culture throughout the book and goes to great
lengths to illustrate the power of social ties. Of course, in the event of an
apocalypse, technological resources are not the only instruments for
communication which expire.

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Perhaps
the most effective method of defining a social network through the lens of
Station Eleven is an examination of two main characters— Kirsten Raymonde and
Miranda Carroll. The two women occupied different settings in the chronological
puzzle of the narrative. Nevertheless, they both reflected deeply on their own
relations with others. Upon closer examination, Miranda spends her life devoted
to working while her personal relationships with family and friends seemed to
eventually deteriorate. Ironically, in the post-pandemic hell of Year twenty,
Kirsten manages to build a network of friends around herself. This simple
observation demonstrates that the innate social behaviors of humans survives
the death of twenty-first century life.

Underneath
the two formal definitions of a “social network” in the Cambridge Dictionary is
an abbreviated list of related words; these include friend, neighbor, and
society. If one were to ask whether the people of year twenty had intact social
networks, the obvious answer would be “no.” And yet, did they not have friends,
neighbors, and social structures of their own? Before her death, Miranda
reflects on the world as an “altered place, the dial turned just one or two
degrees” (Mandel 225). Twenty years later this remains a valid description of
the world’s societal structure; although the progress of science and industry
has collapsed, the ability to quickly form communities proves that the dial was
only truly turned “one or two degrees.”

 

There
is little evidence to refute the fact that humans seek more than biological
necessities, hence Kirsten and the travelling Symphony’s shared desire to keep
Shakespearean theater alive and Miranda’s dedication to her comic Dr. Eleven. “What’s the point of doing
all that work,” Tesch asks, “if no one sees it?” (Mandel 95). Of course,
Tesch’s remark is misguided, given that the comics survive the apocalypse and
eventually serve to give hope to a young Kirsten. The two women are
interconnected in ways they likely could not have imagined. Tesch’s question to
Miranda raises two intriguing questions. Namely, whether social networks can
exist when one is alone and whether they can exist across timelines.

 

 

 

 

 

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