New column up

by Rob Horning

5 July 2010


My most recent column is posted elsewhere on PopMatters. I was trying to apply what I took away from crashing through several books by sociologist Anthony Giddens about “reflexive self-identity”: self-consciousness about making ourselves into something, a fate consigned on us by the uncertainties and opportunities of modern life. We don’t have much choice about undertaking the making of our own identity, and we can’t help to be self-conscious about it, even though this self-consciousness seems to invalidate that resulting identity for us. To counteract that, we rely on close friends and family to substantiate what we believe of ourselves in a disinterested way: of course we will think the best of our own intentions, but have others see the same thing means a lot more to us and keeps us from going down a crazy spiral of self-recrimination. But, and this is sort of the crux of the essay I hope, social networking as a medium instrumentalizes friendship and negates to a degree its ability to serve that function of objectively confirming our identity—we have structural reasons to doubt whether people are being straight with us, whether they are even paying any specific attention or are not just fixated on themselves with in a grand scheme of personal brand management.

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