Vanishing vanity?

I am taking an autoethnographic (auto = self; ethno = folk, people; graphe = to write, inscribe) approach to recalling mediated experiences related to field notes from my birth town. In general, these recollections seem ambivalently selected and vary to an extensive degree. At the same time they build an account of real-time media-identity reporting on the totality of recorded performances.

As such, one could trace occurrences and the way they are described back to the media-identities as distinguished in the literature-based analytical instrument (see a.o. blog). The phrases ‘social networks’ and ‘online social networks’ will be addressed as only the part of me that lived beyond 20. In terms of computational technology, my life prior to that consisted of watching films, using a mobile phone (from 18 years old), learn how to speed-type, type texts for school and play PC and video games. Then one could – and suddenly expected to – wonder about online technology and hanging with friends in virtual places. I didn’t go online.

It may be that the network could not express my self or that I thought privacy on computers was somehow devilish, but had this just been my educational and parental guidance, it would not have come this far (meaning I’ve studied media for ten years).

Shyness over unexplored channels, social anxiety over inexperience with life (in media) in general, as many issues one could mention here, none would do the dilemma of Facebook insecurity right: what does it mean  when somebody writes on your Facebook wall: “Have any gossip? ;-)”’, after you told them the night before that they are gossiping too much (in a friendly manner of course)? Being introverted even refers to personality – something biologists conflate with  everything behind expressive behavior. Connecting the behavioral patterns leads to one’s personalities, and modern networks nice bundle them together and keep them active – initially only to ‘build’, but then to ‘live’ more intensely, whether in Europe or in the US.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I encountered Nietzsche’s maxims for avoiding other people as they could have negative influences that might distract from the real important issues. I cannot say for certain that it was an issue, but surely, I must have been hesitant for some reason. Nietzsche basically says one is unable to trust the vain. Vanity is the greatest potential negative in others – and heavily debated in social networking studies. Because the vain, Nietzsche continues, wants only to receive love and not create a truthful, honest life, they are actors. Nietzsche must have seen how the rise of radio and gramophone made actors out of everyone with a public status. At least he could use the difference between actor and non-actor meaningfully. Full mediation hides the publicness of an unknowable self behind the actor. Nietzsche avoided betrayers, but not more than the vain, because letting himself be fooled by others prevented him from mistrusting others.

Nietzsche avoided proud people, but not more than than the vain. The vain play a role and are very good at it. They think it is important for the world to see them, regardless of whether this ‘world’ is imaginary or not, and of whether this ‘world’ is comprised of their loved one(s), or rather of a known and measurable audience. The world likes to see them and they set positive examples to many people in the world. But – and here’s the kicker – one can never be sure about the sincerity or depth of their humbleness:

they cannot even be sure themselves because what they believe in they want others to teach them.

That would mean they just want to see themselves reflected in others – like the schoolteacher, holding on to his job because it is pleasant to see his student behaving exactly as he told her.

So if total mediation makes it impossible to avoid Nietzsche’s vain people any longer (as the conception of ‘not-vain’ is now impossible), was it that which kept me from seeing the potential in mediating my life? Of course not. This is merely a retrospect fancy view of social life after Nietzsche. There is no way of finding out, and I don’t plan to. I merely have to draw the contours of what I look like in media currently.



Janei in the Netherlands Copyright © 2011 by Peter Blank. All Rights Reserved.


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