In The End of Solitude, author William Deresiewicz begins to describe how our independence and our “small voice” gradually become less important to us. It seems the greater the advancement of technology becomes, the more we begin to lose who we are individually.
What does the contemporary self want? 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.
As spot on as this description is, it’s also frightening to hear, because we know it’s true. We want so badly to be approved by our peers and to be perceived as “cool,” that we will forget to stay completely true to ourselves at times. We lose our sense of individuality and are beginning to lose total control over it. This is definitely not something we need or have to look forward to. I like who I am and try to be my complete self wherever I am. We all must change ourselves a little to adapt to our environments, whether it be in the workplace or in school. We can, but really shouldn’t go running around acting like a crazy teenager/young adult in college who just partied their weekend away when at work. It isn’t viewed as appropriate and I agree with that. Certain attitudes and personalities are acceptable where deemed appropriate.
This [TV shows and social networking sites] 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 it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.
Deresiewicz has made his argument. Through that last statement, he hit the nail on the head. The only unfortunate thing is that we are a part of the generation and the era that feels comfortable as soon as they are noticed, otherwise we are considered a failure. We live our lives in relations to others (celebrities, friends, family), losing our individuality. I’m guilty of it, as I’m sure almost everybody else is. We want to be noticed and some may stop at nothing to have that sense of “power.”