Social networking and chronic narcissism

Nice rant by Philip Dawdy.

This whole Web 2.0, social networking, virtual community business is essentially a pornography of the self—a projected, fictionalized self that is then worshipped by the slightly less-perfect self. Human existence has been this way to a degree once we became the leisure society (am I dabbling in Veblen here? I think so.), but with the Web 2.0 we are so much more willing to spread our selves and our self-infatuations around. If you don’t believe me, cruise through MySpace—a house of mirrors if there ever was one—where we are all rock stars, hotties, vampires and gangstas with flava.

This state of affairs cannot be especially healthy for our souls, our psychology and, hell, our brains because none of it is real. But it sure is a successful approach to getting us to spend more time on the computer (oh, how I miss being able to write on a computer pre-Net, you have no idea). That’s not good either. Because the way the Net is now with all of its “communities” and communes of information there are simply too many stimuli. And, I’ve seen so many instances of such stimuli winding people up in ways that result in human wreckage.

The computer, some of you may recall, was supposed to free us. We were supposed to have so many automated tasks and so on that we’d be done with work by 3 p.m. and off to the social club. Things haven’t worked out this way at all. Not only do we do more work for more hours than we used to before the computer age, but even when we are not working per se, we have become slaves to our fictional selves on Web 2.0. I worry about people younger than me who have no idea what human communication and hanging out were like before the PCs and Macs turned into these hyper-communication tools. The Net has become our social club. In Seattle, any popular coffeehouse is filled with people who just sit at tables on their laptops and communicate with other fictional selves on the Net instead of doing the least bit of the communication and interaction—positive or negative—with people sitting five feet away. All those people, all that weird isolation. Zombies.