The Weekly Stripe – 27.09.19
What does it mean to define our identity on the internet? This week we look at how social media and some of its antecedents both shape and allow us to negotiate our sense of self.
Tavi Gevinson, founder of Rookie magazine aged 15, is an original internet influencer. Here she reflects on who she would be without Instagram – “I can try to imagine an alternate universe where I’ve always roamed free and Instagram-less in pastures untouched by the algorithm. But I can’t imagine who that person is inside.”
Jia Tolentino is another writer who grew up on the internet. In her new book Trick Mirror she writes about how the interent, and in particular social media, has monetised our innate desire to perform our identities so that we are attractive and pleasing to others.
In his book the Social Photo, Nathan Jurgenson defends the selfie as an intimate reveal of who we are “back stage” when we’re actively shaping and refining the performance of ourselves for others. He argues that the common critique of selfies is an act of social regulation that is deeply gendered.
Meanwhile Tara Isabella Burton considers how as a teenager writing on LiveJournal (an early 2000’s antecedent of social media) allowed her to explore an aspirational, narrative version of herself based on who she wanted to be. This version of self production was afforded by the more private circle of friends that she met and cultivated on LiveJournal, the interactions with whom she likens to writing an 18th century epistolary novel.
The artist Ryan Gander was so interested in how social media is changing how we see ourselves that he made a documentary about it. He suggests that our obsession with self online is fundamentally an existential one born from our anxiety that “the world might not remember us when we’re gone”.