Topic B, Part 5: I Am What I Am Not

The internet combines two worlds in a way that no medium has ever done before – it provides the mob mentality of the congregated masses as well as the safety and anonymity of solitude. The result is the freedom to (re)construct identity and to perfect the art of (self-) promotion. It is both a communal and a personal forum; it operates much like a real marketplace or town square, given equally to exhibition and commerce. But imagine a marketplace that allows its participants as much or as little secrecy and obscurity as they wish. Accordingly, what we’re selling in this marketplace, as often as not, is a heavily modified version of ourselves.

The real coup represented by someone like Jeffree Star is the willingness to step into the actual world while maintaining that myspace-crafted persona. We have come to expect a degree of falsification and misrepresentation online, but still hold higher standards for authenticity in the flesh & blood, bricks & mortar world. The fabricated world of online creation should be negated by the actual world of lived experience – you are not your facebook profile; you do not look like your carefully chosen and posted photos - but when a Jeffree Star comes along and denies this rift, it raises alarm. And I think that, as PF suggested, is the point of the whole exercise. New modes of self-invention; newly available methods of self-definition.

Star is but one example of the new breed who, by cunningly utilizing the tools granted them by history’s greatest shared source of information, have become “famous for being famous,” or more accurately, famous simply because they claim to be famous.

***UPDATE*** Emily Nussbaum suggests that maybe it's a generational gap, that nobody over 30 can possibly understand what it means to be young and alive and online today. Most chilling passage? That would have to be this one:

Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

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