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Memory is Just an Obstacle in the Pursuit of a Perfectly Constructed Self

Our worldview has become less of a spanning breadth and more of an amalgamation of unrelated “stuff”.

Virgil Sandberg

The American character is one of disassociation from events that aren’t immediate. Technology precludes our perception as formed through aggregation of content. Disassociation and aggregation are more complementary than diametric. The absence of interlinking narratives exists as a result of the simplistic aggregation of events – our worldview has become less of a spanning breadth and more of an amalgamation of unrelated “stuff”.

With selfhood now a matter of public display, our pasts are carefully curated on social networks and our future spread through upcoming notifications. Similarly, our supposedly interconnected world has become disassociated, statically composed of only that which we want to hear. It is my contention that a wider perception has been lost through efficiency fetishism.

Are we democratizing the narratives of our society through presentation of only the “liked”? Or are we censoring ourselves from uncomfortable information? It appears that there are too many gaps for our zeitgeist to fit together. The modus operandi of corporate media (and hence viral marketers) celebrates the compilation of info. It simply wouldn’t be profitable to report the whole news, when the media is owned by so few who own so much. Thus, corporate marketers, advertisers and public relations types scatter information in slideshows, blurbs, blogs and viral videos, the new “news."

We play along…but there is a constant underlying anxiety that the presentation isn’t right. It seems our formulas of selfhood cannot transcend the impersonal nature of the medium. By medium I mean the mode or agency of expression, specifically alluding to the process of aggregating news and interests through social and viral media as a kind of falsified expression of self. For example, when people make a Facebook page and list and share their interests in links and photos, the totality of it is an unconscious attempt to broadcast an idealized personality. However, the medium through which the invented personalities are exchanged is so detached and superficial that there is a kind of anxiety that surrounds social networking. Therefore, the formulas to shape selfhood are ensnared in a continuous process of editing through deletion and sharing with an anxious notion that some combination of this shared information will display a personality that impresses people. Contemporaneously, we realize that there is a latent knowledge that being “liked” is not the same as being liked. The high-definition widescreen is not a mirror through which the self is explored –but a coalescence of pixels.

We mythologize our own memory with gigabytes of photos linearly displayed on facebook timelines and tumblr accounts. But as we create these markets from the intangible – our reality has delved further into alienation, our own experiences becoming nothing more than a synthesizable and quantifiable commodity, in the form of data coveted by enterprise and exchanged like a currency.

We are losing memory and constructing illusion as we culminate anthologies of the historical self as we would “like” it presented. Attempting to elucidate the self through endless combinations of interests has splintered the psyche. So what is left for memory? The inability to engage others truthfully and personally leaves very little worth recalling. Maybe we need more people telling us things we don’t want to hear.

Virgil Sandberg can be reached at where he covers the American cultural scene from TV and film, sci fi, comics, politics and acid rock to Zeuhl.

Copyright © Virgil Sandberg. All rights reserved.