Inventing the Self

I share, therefore, I am

November 20th, 2013 by Sabrina Smith · 3 Comments

Lately I have been on a Facebook and Instagram budget.

Scratch that.

Lately I have been on a psychological patch, one that helps me reduce the obsessive compulsive attempts to update my feed or post a new photo of the day. And I think I have been making great progress.

Which brings me to the discussion of my response to psychologist Sherry Turkle’s view on the ‘self as we want it to be.’ In some ways I agree with her stance on the idea of the “Second Self,” but I feel that there is a sense that we won’t be able to reclaim ourselves or pay less attention to the technological avatar. It is true that this community is obsessed with the latest gadgets, craves for social media buzz and people of varying age groups have the constant need to operate on a tweet or obtain the most “likes” on their personal page. In fact, it’s the the same behavior that I am trying to lessen in my day-to-day activity. Turkle makes an interesting point that we feel the need to be in control, and the tangible ability to erase a word or post the perfect picture demonstrates the desire to present ourselves in an almost perfect reflection. The moment were she mentioned the notion of ” I would rather text than talk,” it spoke volume for me because I know a few people in my life who are notorious for choosing the text pad over an in-person conversation or even over-the-phone communication. The short change of real conversation is a real social issue and the idea of forging new identities through computation is a bit pathetic, but we all do it at some point.

Even though majority of her points are agreeable based on current, social behaviors, I have a problem with the way that Turkle underestimates the human ability for change. At times (in both her reading and the TED Talk) it felt as though we (her readers and viewers) were like a child being scolded for something that is non-intentional but certainly controllable. Just as though we have the urge to control our lives, we can turn that sense of control into changing our habits and doing more to switch from the avatar to our normal selves. Multiplicity  is certainly at play here and it is our mission to level out our different personalities, one of them being the technological self. But there has to be a sense of confidence that we as people can do so, and unfortunately I don’t get that vibe from Turkle. I mean, she criticizes her young daughter about her analysis of the real turtle at the museum. Come on, she was a kid. On the other hand, I think her examples did offer some humanistic perspective to her argument which I could appreciate.

Let me clarify for the record that we are not only what we share.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • matthew finston // Nov 20th 2013 at 12:33 pm

    “At times (in both her reading and the TED Talk) it felt as though we (her readers and viewers) were like a child being scolded for something that is non-intentional but certainly controllable.” I agree. I think you put it very well. I also felt that I was being reprimanded by Turkle. I think this speaks volumes about her rhetorical strategies. Why does she feel this need to scold us for finding emotional attachment to electronic devices. Is it the sole fact that they aren’t real? Would she say the same things about Puppets? I know I would’ve hated growing up in the Turkle household.

  • Yitian Liao // Nov 20th 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Speaking of the text thing, you reminded me of when I was in college, I skyped my suitemate next door. She skyped me back, and we had this skype conversation for 10 minutes when we were just 10 feet away from each other. I found this fun but another friend of mine said both my suitemate and I were wired.
    “Couldn’t you just walk over next door?” She asked.
    “Because I have very cute emoticon I wanted to use in the conversation.”
    The emoticon I chose to use in the conversation is the technological self. And I like to use it when I feel they can express my feelings well. But sometimes I feel that I use too much of them that I lose the ability to express my feeling into real words without the emoicon. I think it may be because my right brain functions better than my left one. I agree with your statement “but there has to be a sense of confidence that we as people can do so”, if not, most of us, who are so used to texting or using computer, will only use them to communicate with each other instead of have a face-to-face conversation.

  • Kristina Bodetti // Nov 20th 2013 at 3:41 pm

    100% agreement here!

    You touched on a bunch of important things here. First the social impact of social media and short hand conversation is dangerous. Everyone has seen the reports about the dangers and anyone who has taught or tutored kids high school or younger (and scarily some college freshman!) knows that kids are writing essays the way they write texts! Its not all bad of course, anyone who can short-hand text can take short hand notes which we all know can be helpful, but the difficulty kids are having converting back to regular writing is astounding and insane.
    You also talked about multiplicity and leveling our tech selves out with our other selves. This is important to. As the world progresses we have to learn to “get along with” technology, how to be ourselves, how to be human, with technology running our lives. The key to that is staying in control and the sign of that control is moderation like what you describe yourself as doing. Not making facebook the center of our universes. Using it, having fun with it, but not to the exclusion of real human interaction and connection.

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