Selfies and Mass Communication

Written by Donika Lekaj

Poststructuralists believe that positioning within systems of language can construct personal subjectivity- it perhaps in this sense that we may begin to understand why selfies have become so infamously related to narcissism.  While Manuel Castells term of ‘mass self-communication’(Ceid100, Module 8) and  Danah Boyd’s  optimism towards ‘worldly’ online network construction of  identities (2014) present us with what is at stake, the challenge somewhat relates to the online environment perpetuating a divided sense of self .

A painting portraying a scene from Ovid's "Narcissus and Echo" in which Narcissus has presumably died of thirst and Echo  as well as a small child watch over him.
Nicolas Poussin – Echo and Narcissus

This concept is perhaps best illustrated with analogy to Jaques Lacan’s mirror stage and the idea that children (and arguably adults) see in their mirror image a unified whole.  Their reflection expresses their ego and a temporary release of frustration that emanates from their fragmented sense of self when lacking ideal physical and mental abilities. Humans often associate this reflection with their identity however this backfires because the ego “despite conscious senses to the contrary, is not a locus of autonomous agency, the seat of a free, true “I” determining its own fate…” (Johnston, 2018)

This is perhaps the aspect of online social networking or image heavy platforms that Silverman critiques when bringing to mind fixation on public perception as well as restricting egocentric tactics and conventions. He argues that what keeps us hooked is dependence on social intelligence/capital, metrics and hierarchies that lead to “calibrating of … public persona” (Silverman,2015, p.52) as well as commodification of our personhood and art.

Dawkins sentimentality towards cultural transmission as unique human phenomena and his belief that humans “hold the power to turn against [their] creators” (1976, chapter 11 p. 7) are certainly inspirational in this context. Perhaps self and textual-reflexivity is a good first step:  understanding mediated realities and countering the perceived isolation inherent with “critical detachment rather than… emotional involvement” (Chandler, 1994, ‘Intertextuality p. 10’). Then we can determine whether the memes that physically inhabit our mind and environment are of ephemeral utility.

References

Boyd, D. (2015). Its complicated: the social lives of networked teens. Place of publication not identified: Yale University Press.

Johnston, A. (2018, July 10). Jacques Lacan. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lacan/#MirStaEgoSub.

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