Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Intenet has made monsters of Millennials. How do we fix that?


Jia Tolentino's new collection of essays, Trick Mirror, detail what it means to
 live the Millennial life. The insights kick in fast
 in the book's opening essay, "The I in the 
Internet," which asks how the medium
 got so bad.


She notes Erving Goffman's 1959 theory 
of identity, making what could read like
 a master's thesis into a gripping tale
 of how we became eternal performers - 
how we are similar in job interviews to
how we constantly present what we think
  of as our best selves on the Net
.

Offline, at least, there are "forms 
of relief," in which the audience turns 
over and the you at your job interview
 is different from the you who meets up 
with friends for a drink afterward and
 is different again when you go home 
to read yourself to sleep.

The Internet was one thing, Tolentino 
argues, but social media is a whole other 
level. People scroll through reams of
 content, viewing "all new information 
as a sort of direct commentary on
 who they are." Further, there's a
 constant pressure to expand one's
 audience, unlike in real life
, when we don't seek more likes and more 
followers and more hearts. Friends
 don't go home from dinner parties
 on the Internet. "The online
 audience never has to leave."


And as Millennials lives have
 gotten busier and busier, there
 is less time to politically engage 
and, besides, the Internet provides
 a cheap substitute" for such actions.
 Having an opinion online is often
seen as the end, rather than the
 beginning, of something. The
 Internet allows us to "seem"
 politically engaged.

This means that opinions have needed to get
 wilder and wilder. Gawker, Deadspin, 
and Jezebel were outlets designed to
 drive conflict. Upbeat ones like 
BuzzFeed, Grantland, and Upworthy failed to take,.

The Internet "brings the I into
 everything" because it can "make it
 seem that supporting someone means
 literally sharing in their experience."


Tolentino concludes that the Internet
 will collapse at some point, but that
 first we need to somehow start caring
 less about our online identities, to
 be "deeply skeptical of our own
 unbearable opinions," to "be careful 
in thinking about when our opposition serves
 us," and to not always put
 ourselves first.

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