“Mother, wife, actress, model, fashion designer, tennis aficionado”, “Entrepreneur, father, bicyclist, lawyer, teacher”, “Translator, poet, gay rights activist, animal protection supporter, foodie”, “Businessman, educator, photographer, techie, bird watcher”, “Poet, model, public speaker, opinion leader, equality activist”, and so on, and so on. The list of these lists of descriptors can go on and on. As you can probably already figure out, this is the usual hodgepodge of self-attributes one can easily find nowadays on people’s social media profiles. From the business serious LinkedIn to the silly TikTok, everyone has four, five, six words lined up to describe themselves. An onslaught of labels meant to tell everyone who the person behind that picture, usually filled with an enormous smile or even with an open mouth laugh, really is.

Citește versiunea în limba română aici.

Among other things, social media has given us the opportunity to finally control the narrative. And how long we have been waiting for that opportunity! How we all hated that others had the power to tell stories about us! But now, now we can tell the world what we want about ourselves and ignore those who don’t buy into our story, our public image. We live now through the high times of self-definition—albeit one when we spend less and less time to know ourselves, as we have been advised by that ancient Greek philosopher—one in which borne out of desperation to shut up the “others,” self-portraits run amok enveloped in gargantuesque egos in the name of the arrogant “nobody can tell me who I am!”. L’enfer is no longer les autres, because we managed to find a way to tell the others who we want to be and then tell those who don’t agree with that self-promoted image to just “shove it.” To go away, as we are busy breaking the “glass ceiling.”

Public self-labeling has given green light to raging narcissists to lead the world. From the former (and, perhaps future) United States president, Donald Trump, a miserable soul tormented by an overinflated ego and acute need for approval (like all the grown-up children who have invaded our contemporary world) to up and coming businesspeople, artists, public leaders, etc., and all the way to former members of the British royal family who seem to be preparing themselves to follow on the footsteps of Mr. Trump and become the first (former) members of the said noble family to turn into US politicians, our world is now devoid of that essential social element that kept mores and habits in check: assessment and control by others, by the community and its customs and traditions. (And I am not a conservative, but I do need to notice that in our desire to throw away everything from the past, we ended up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)

What does this all mean for the future of human society? I don’t have the knowledge, nor the clairvoyance to venture an answer. I am however concerned that this trend of absolute and utter focus on the self at the expense of anything else can lead us further down the path of self-destruction that we have already embraced with the advent of modern society, the individual-centered world, God’s death and an exacerbated capitalist system that cares little for the value of the human being as a necessary member of the community and society at large. And if until the 1960s, we could still hope that modernism and modernity ideas could still bring us together, the postmodernism thought and the technological advances that allowed us to be increasingly alone and self-sufficient while projecting a persona larger than life itself through social media have shattered that hope for unity in the name of the exacerbated and ultimate self.

We have already seen the damage caused by the echo chamber of social media. And we know for a fact that its consequences are far from over. The discourse of ignorance and intolerance has finally found the perfect milieu to spread its toxic message. One by one, modern nations are falling prey to the alluring and bombastic flood of demagoguery. While the world around us is slowly dying, we continue to pound our chests drunk with euphoria at the sight of our written voices encased in the plastic and glass of our cell phones. And we scream with delirium when we find ourselves mirrored in leaders who, just like ourselves, are only out for themselves, eager and desperate for more and more confirmation of their already overgrown egos. Utterly preoccupied as we are with naval gazing, we fail to see how our choices now impact not only the very pillars of the social infrastructure we built over centuries, including education, free market, democracy, human rights, equality and inclusion, among others, but also the entire human society.

So, in addition to that invasion of the loud and uneducated self-absorbed halfwits promoted by social media, we now see the other side of the Dunning Kruger effect with the same mass of people: self-aggrandizing through the omnipotent dictatorship of labels. For how easy it is after all to call yourself whatever you want, regardless of the reality behind it, when you know that absolutely no one can challenge you in any way! Welcome to the future, everyone!


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