What Does The Contemporary Self Want?


Consider this an addition to Heartiste’s recent post, Laying Down The Law On Attention Whores. From critic William Deresiewicz;

“The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge– broadband tipping the Web from text to image; social networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider–the two cultures betray a common impulse. Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected; It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves–by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self in Romanticism was sincerity, and in modernism was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.”

Found this passage in the first chapter of Chris Hedges book Empire of Illusion published in 2009. It makes a bit more sense in context, but the message still rings true. I’m sure there will be more noteworthy sections to pass on as I continue.

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