This is a repost. I’m out of the country. Should fortune be shining on me, I will be nowhere near internet connectivity, as you read this.
Sherry Turkle is a professor at MIT who is studying the effects of social media and cellphones on children. She has interviewed over 400 young people and their parents. In a recent article in the New York Times Magazine she is reported to worry that “the self was increasingly becoming externally manufactured rather than internally developed.” The journalist, Peggy Orenstein, quotes Turkle: “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are, but because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become performance.”
I am reminded of the beginning of David Foster Wallace’s short story “Good Old Neon.” The story, his last great story, won an O. Henry Award and is mostly the recollection of a now-deceased advertising executive. It begins this way: “My whole life I’ve been a fraud. I’m not exaggerating. Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people.”