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jeudi, janvier 12, 2012

 Curation of the Virtual Self

If a tree falls in the forest without anyone to see it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if you didn’t blog, Facebook, Tweet or Tumblr something that happened in your life, did it ever happen?

With the current level of self-management (or is it obsession?), many people would qualify as “self-stalkers”. You know the type – they constantly check their social feeds to see if they’ve been tagged, mentioned, “liked” or commented on.

These are also the people who usually live their whole lives online, “checking in” to places, tweeting about things, posting  photographs of their meals, and using Facebook to login and comment on various websites. The question from me to them usually is – what happens if you DON’T do it? Does that invalidate your existence?

For many people, it does. It has been documented that people often do not  feel the full completion an event until it’s been posted online in some form or other. Great holidays that lacked a certain je ne sais quoi – until the photographs were put on Flickr. Relationships that weren’t really exclusive until someone blinked, and changed their relationship status to “in a relationship”. (Relationships have apparently broken down because of this issue.)

With this in mind, I’m looking rather mistrustfully at Facebook’s new Timeline feature. Touted as the ability to “tell your story with a new kind of profile” where you can highlight important and memorable events in your life, I’m not sure if it won’t enable us to manufacture a completely different story about ourselves altogether.

Given the choice, most people want to put forward the best version of themselves. This is why we dress up when we head for a night out on the town, and why we put our best foot forward when we go for job interviews.

Similarly, we curate our personal social media feeds to show the best versions of ourselves, and the best parts of our lives – great meals, fun parties, and amazing vacations. To us, these things “really happened” in our lives. But what happens to events which pass by unnoted and untweeted?

Character-molding events have a tendency to leave a bittersweet taste in their aftermath. We probably won’t note a severe reprimand on our personal calendars, but what if, upon further rumination, it deeply impacts your life?

A personal timeline should represent you in your entirety – the good, the bad, the highs and the lows. When we can obsessively curate our “public selves” to contain only the good, the happy, and the glorious, we become hyper-aware of our public image, and overly-concerned with what others’ responses to our actions are (you mean nobody “liked” the fact that I checked into the library today?)

The choice of what to portray as our "public" selves may prove to be a boon to some, especially to people who value the integrity of keeping the public-private selves as closely related to each other as possible. However, it could also mean the annihilation of the breathing space we need in order to explore different facets of our personality as we grow into our own skins. For fear of ridicule or lack of validation, one could be stopped from trying a new activity that radically departs from your established personality.

I'm someone who knows this more than most, since I seem to keep trying things which people find "out of character" or "not really your personality" for me. Case in point: I signed up for tap dancing classes for about 6 months in 2004; it was something I had always wanted to try out, so I found a school in Queensway, borrowed some shoes, and danced.

Sometime later (just around the time that I had worked off my curiosity for the subject), someone told me that they had been walking around the shopping centre after dinner and had peeked in on the dance class, only to be surprised at seeing me in class. "Not really your personality leh," they had commented to me.

I'm honestly not sure that I would have tried the class as earnestly, had thry made that comment to me just as I was starting out. I might have discontinued my lessons, considering it had I been discouraged from the activity - after all, it's "not my style/personality."

With social media timelines conflating the public and private selves, we are going to spend more time obsessively curate our "public selves" that other people base their impressions of us on. People will assume impose certain notions of our behavior, and we will continue to reinforce them on ourselves.

The question for us then is - are we ready for the responsibility of redefining who we are online? And in any case, who are we to censor ourselves? Remember how Jim Carrey's John in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind pleaded for the "scientists" not to delete his memories of Kate Winslet's Clementine. "Not this one, let me keep this one," he begged. We are the sum total of all our parts, experiences, joys, tears and laughter - what will become of our "selves" once we start to purge "unnotable events" from our public Timeline?

Libellés : ,

[Curation of the Virtual Self]
Sngs Alumni @ 12.1.12 { 0 comments }


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