Dear Lily June,
I’ve written variations on the theme below, here and here. I guess I keep returning to this well because I am still so confused about the world of today–your world–and its emphasis on surface viewings over deeper interactions, especially as relates to technology.
I find myself wondering, in a culture dominated by the term “social media,” why I often feel so very lonely in my way of thinking. My thoughts below are as disorganized as my mind is when it comes to this. Little one, forgive your mother her hundreds and hundreds of extraneous words in trying to determine what it takes to build real character. For what it’s worth, to say all of the below would take 60 whole tweets.
1. Of course, there is a reason it’s called Facebook and not Mindbook, Heartbook, or Soulbook.
2. I get into a debate over the following status, written by Spencer McFarland:
I agree with all of this but Take selfies. I ask, Why still the focus on external validation?
3. A girl in her twenties takes issue with my comment, fervently defending selfies by saying they allow her to get over her anxieties about how ugly she looks. Her words.
4. She calls me a part of an out-of-touch generation that is constantly shaming the youth for their tools of self-esteem. She is a proud millennial.
“Demographers…use the early 1980s as starting birth years and…the mid-1990s to…early 2000s as final birth years for the Millennial Generation.”
6. I was born in 1984, just as millennial as she is. I lash back, calling her “ageist.”
7. Later the same day, I will read the Facebook status of a poet I went to undergrad with, Claire Donato:
“Let us be kind to one another’s internet masks.”
8. I remember the need to argue, not just passionately, but compassionately. My debate is an ugly reflection. I delete my comments, but change my current status:
9. The girl in her twenties had said that her parents had boxes of photographs from their own wedding, so how were selfies any different?
10. IMHO, generally, photographs are personally perused to recall specific memories of actual moments while selfies are socially shared to memorialize appearances.
11. I look at the world in which we are “sharing,” and I see what the photographer Eric Pickersgill saw when he took a series of photos entitled “Removed.”
12. Remove the iPhones, and you see people turned away from one another, looking down into empty hands, together while entirely distanced, avoiding one another’s eyes.
13.A poem I read when I was in college, Jeffrey McDaniel’s “The Quiet World,” begins,
“In an effort to get people to look / into each other’s eyes more…/
“…the government has decided / to allot each person exactly one hundred / and sixty-seven words, per day.”
15. McDaniel’s poem was written in 1998, eight years before Twitter will be launched, reducing the sum of human experience to 140-characters. Or less.
16. My father, at the peak of his alcoholism, spent 6-8 hours a day on Twitter, gathering “followers” at an enormous rate because of his incendiary comments on politics.
17. My father has a phone full of selfies featuring himself and the women who’ve left him.
18. When I was 16, my father bought me my first computer. Christmas Eve, he called me in to look at the screen. He was purusing Match.com and wanted me to help rate its women.
19. “Alyssa,” he’d point to a body and ask, “is she too much of a fattie for me?”
20. In 2012, Tinder makes superficiality a science. Swipe right if you like what you see. Swipe left if
you’re driven by judging others & celebrating vanity you don’t.
21. In 2016, my father announces to me that he has a heart problem, atrial fibrillation. He scoffs at the diagnosis, saying I shouldn’t worry.
22. It’s probably, he tells me, just a result of his abuse of laxatives and a lifelong battle with bulimia. Simple as that.
23. The “men’s lifestyle” e-tailer, Avaj, conducted a study that claimed, on average, men look at themselves in the mirror 23 times a day to women’s 16 self-glances.
24. It may re-establish equality if women, as McFarland suggests above, “Take selfies…” in order to look at ourselves more, instead of looking outward at others.
25. Pupil, the part of the eye that lets light strike the retina (like how light is recorded on film in a camera) comes from the Latin Pūpilla, the word for “a little doll.”
26. Pupil became associated with eyes when it was noticed you could see a small reflection–like a little doll–of yourself in the person’s eyes you were looking into.
27. Is looking at a selfie the same as gazing in a mirror? For both, our eyes take in our reflections upside-down, but our mind reassembles the light until we look upright.
28. My sister, fallen in love with filters, can spend 6-8 hours per day tailoring her selfies until she sees an image of herself that doesn’t trigger disgust, depression.
29. No one in the family is claiming my sister has an addiction.
30. Was that a judgmental comment? Something I even had the right to share?
31. Last night, I stayed up until 1:00AM just to straighten my hair, even though it means I ended up getting less than 5 hours of sleep.
32. This morning, in the mirror, I put on old makeup and a new top, and I liked my reflection. Does that make me a vain person?
33. Does claiming a moral high ground because I won’t selfie this rare moment outside of my status quo self-loathing put me “above it all” or “right in the thick of it?”
34. I have recorded this moment–in words–on a public blog. #Vulnerability? #CarefullyCraftedPersona?
35. Emma Stone says,
“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.”
Interesting irony, coming from an actress.
36. If you type “Emma Stone hot” into Google, you get over 75 million hits, most of which debate the relative virtues of her appearance and find her wanting.
37. Facebook, in 2003, was originally “Facemash,” a program allowing Harvard students to compare the faces of their fellow peers to decide who was “hot” and who “not.”
38. Most apps have blemished pasts: I’ve heard rumors Snapchat, nee “Picaboo,” was invented to allow its creators to take and share temporary photos of naked women.
39. In 2012, Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel, said,
“Snapchat …[is] about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect.”
40. Snapchat alleviates “emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the internet.”
41. The irony seems to be that Snapchat allows you to both quickly tell the real truth, then untell it.
42. I write a limerick in response to the Challenge on antonyms, words that function as opposites (ex., public versus private), but it cheats. I call it “Selfie-Esteem.”
The word “selfie” implies it’s for you,
yet once taken, what do you do?
You post it for likes,
and reshares and stat spikes
till your face is one we all see through.
44. As soon as I hit post, I will be embarrassed by this. I can already feel my face reddening.
45. Would this blog be improved if you had a selfie of me blushing in it?
46. 9 times out of 10, if someone tags me in a Facebook photo, I will delete it. I’m not “above” anything. I do it because I’m self-conscious about the images they’re posting.
47. 9 times out of 10, my profile photo is a photo of you, Lily, too young to give consent, too pre-verbal to request your privacy.
48. I post your images because I’m proud of you, not for how you look, but for the fact that you exist.
49. I think you’re beautiful, but that fact is entirely irrelevant to how much I do and will love you.
50. You’re going to live a lifetime of people looking at you, whether you decide to participate in, endorse, deny, or reject that.
51. I used to teach my students that Emily Dickinson, notorious hermit, predicted social media and hated all of it.
52. Dickinson wrote,
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
53. Dickinson wrote,
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
54. If Facebook had been around in 1847, how many Likes might the famous daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson have received?
55. What right have I to judge anyone’s enjoyment of selfies? My training is in poetry, an art nobody particularly enjoys anymore.
56. All I can tell you is T. S. Eliot once wrote,
“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;”
57. “Eleanor Rigby” is famous for its chorus:
“All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? All the lonely people. Where do they all belong?”
58. Still, I like the line where a woman goes about “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” and the speaker asks, “Who is it for?”
59. Maybe we aren’t more vain as a species than we ever were. Maybe we just have more–and more efficient–mirrors.
60. Of course, there’s a reason it’s called Facebook.
- By Unknown(Life time: Unknown).The original uploader was Tsukiakari at English Wikipedia. – Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera, roughly 1900, Scanned from the original 4×5 inch glass negative., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29691564
- Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1667290
- By Steve Rogers, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7977505