The burden of self curation

In the days since Anthony Bourdain’s death, I’ve been reeling in a mix of emotions, and have only been able to vent these feelings to my wife. Let’s just say I’ve harbored some politically inexpedient opinions about certain people involved in that affair that could easily be twisted out of context. Especially in my social milieu, especially in this day and age, especially in this city.

This has all been amplified by the fact that our preferred medium of communication is now online. Has the internet – social media especially – really provided us with more freedom? The new buzz term, “meaningful connections” is nauseating. This is essentially what happens on social media when it’s connected to your real identity: you curate your life in photos and videos; mediate your texts for your audiences. You end up on a team of sorts.

The social media business model invariably ends up connected to your real identity because the data that companies harvest needs to be connected to a real consumer for an advertiser to show interest. Because of this, even if your think you’re being free and edgy in your online persona, the life you curate online won’t be a reflection of your true self. It’s your projected true self. Ideological stakes are driven into the ground and you dare not cross them. We’ve lost nuance in this culture, in this era of Trump. Bold, primary colors are the aesthetics of the day. No shades of anything in between. We’re all a confused tangle of emotions and outwardly contradictory opinions. But if we sit back and contemplate it, there’s always a logic to our personal beliefs and actions. We shouldn’t be validating ourselves by friending/unfriending and emoticons, but we do. It’s not a trivial thing either. Those little interactions can have grave consequences. Everybody gets sucked into the game. Without visionary leadership companies like Facebook and Google simply don’t understand the seismic shift in society that seemingly little things like Thumbs Up buttons are causing. Binary thinking, divisive ideological politics, are being driven by algorithms which are tearing the soul out of humanity. I want the dirt, the self-doubt, the mystery and the contradictions to be accepted again. We’re imperfect creatures in a constantly evolving state. This straightjacket of self curation is going to smother the spark of creativity in us all.

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