Monday, June 10, 2013

Between the Selfie and Self-Reflection

I like the distance between Jonathan Safran Foer's "How Not To Be Alone" and Kate Losse's "The Return of the Selfie," the former published in The New York Times, the latter as a blog post at The New Yorker, both this week. Each writer essays the implications of intense self-regard, a state encouraged by, implicitly argued for, and necessary to online living.

Foer writes:
We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or—being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology —but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.
And Losse, on a "Vine" selfie from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey:
Dorsey’s Vines suggest that the selfie has come full circle, from a sign of the subject’s marginality to a sign of his or her social-media importance. In these videos, Dorsey is the center of the universe. Isn’t that, perhaps, what social media has been saying to us all along?
If I could step into the proverbial time machine, I'd go back and get in line for Jerry Lee Lewis's show at the Star-Club in April, 1964, or catch an early Stooges or Ramones gig in front of, say, 20 people. I'd also go forward in time and see what social networking will have wrought on autobiographical writing. The rapid, disconnected pace at which we're living now suggests that the patient waiting for theme and surprise in an essay, the unfolding of argument and point-of-view, will become a rare thing, but I don't want to be pessimistic, as every age must guard against solipsistic lamenting of a greater past. I do think that silence is now Officially Underrated, and that the kind of slow give-and-take between forthrightness and skepticism that marks essay writing is under heavy duress in today's write-and-post alacrity. We'll see. A turning away from the sexiness of social networking and instant blogging is probably a good thing. And more and more we may feel the need for that.


Thumbs-up image via Jasa Utama.

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