Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who wants a Danish?

    So there was once a man who wrote many stories, letters and books. The thing is he wrote most of them pretending to be someone else. He had many pen names and used these different voices to express different ideas he had. I like this guy, or maybe it's I like these persons inside this guy? The distinction is a little fuzzy, and he realized this too. To not keep you guessing, the man is Soren Kierkegaard and he lived in Denmark in the 19th Century. Anyone whos taken a few philosophy courses will probably be able to tell you how terribly important he is, but then again anyone who has taken a few philosophy courses will probably be able to tell you lots of important things that you would think are bollocks, and they will tell you these things in a very important way that also means they think they are very important. Let me try, just try to say something about him without the self-importance thing.

      One of his ideas is that we think about who we are in terms of double reflection. Think of it like standing in front of a mirror. You know where you are, but you see your reflection in a different place and when you move your reflection moves too. The double reflection in our heads works sort of like this. There's our "us-ness" that's our very core, and that "us-ness" then thinks about itself. When we think about ourself we create our own mental image of who we are. It's a mental "reflection". The funny thing is that after we get this idea in our heads of what we are, that idea actually changes the real us so that our life isn't one or the other, our life becomes a double reflection. Sound complicated? Think of a guy who is a normal height and weight, but develops anorexia. He sees himself in the mirror not as a normal sized person but as fat. Then he lets the way he sees his reflection change who he is...he eats less...then the reflection changes too as he gets thinner. Can you see how you'd do this in your head? (By "this" I don't mean develop anorexia)

      Here's where I insert myself in the story of the Danish man with his mirror and imaginary anorexic. I think that people -millions of people- have stopped putting effort into the action of reflecting on their own life. Where has that effort gone? It's gone onto status updates, creating avatars in Second Life or customizing their characters in World of Warcraft. It's in the way people craft their persona in the type of tweets they make. The most dangerous thing about a digital identity is that it's outside of the self. So we are holding the mirror up to a digital self, but that digital self exists in a world we don't define. Do you need to daydream in 140 characters or less? Are you allowed to untag mental images of the really bad crap in your life? Of course not, and that makes life hard. But life will go on being hard whether we run and cry online or not ( :( ). Online worlds let us express ourselves in a way that's easier, and one we usually like better, but only because those online methods benefit by enabling us. Farmville (and its stupid effing updates) makes Zynga Inc. millions of dollars a year off of (mostly) children and people with addition problems. Do these people really want to become farmers? No they want to escape in another identity and someone makes a profit off of this. Only in our minds can we make ourselves into who we want to be, whatever or however that is. We don't level up when we try to be better people, but that doesn't mean we don't succeed.

Look in the mirror and think of the reflection inside your head too (Just don't try this stoned, you'll be in the bathroom for hours)



  1. Are you saying that the philosophical task of cultivating the self is now being undertaken but in a false setting? We are cultivating a shadow of the self?

    I just want to make sure I understand your point here.


  2. That's correct, and what's more we are being told that this new digital self is of the same value. That we all now need to posess a digital identity. That digital self is then made in a mould formed by other people/groups who benefit from our digital conformity (we buy their games, we create profiles that advertisers mine for data etc.)