Robert Horning has developed a substantial body of work in PopMatters' music reviews, concerts, film, and TV sections. You may have also seen his writing in Time Out New York and Skyscraper. In his PopMatters column, "Marginal Utility", Rob bridges the abstract and concrete aspects of consumerism. As we all know, consumerism is a popular topic with theorists, sociologists, and historical analysts that hang out in university offices and corporate conference rooms. Lest you think his column might read like an excerpt from an academic text, you will find that Rob's writing is as grounded and approachable as an everyday trip to the grocery store. Rob has a BA and MA in English Literature and was working on a dissertation for a PhD, but grew less interested in the subject matter of his study (18th century commercial fiction and book reviews), and found himself drawn to the stuff he was reading from outside the field: social theory, economics works, and sociology. That research, and his continued interest in it, is what generates his solid background knowledge for "Marginal Utility" and informs his music reviews.
The social-media companies have largely succeeded in persuading users of their platforms' neutrality. What we fail to see is that these new identities are no less contingent and dictated to us then the ones circumscribed by tradition; only now the constraints are imposed by for-profit companies in explicit service of gain.
I think the logical extension of the data self -- the self that is secure with itself only to the extent that it is constituted in social media as manipulatable data -- will be for Twitter to come preloaded with plausible friends, Facebook preloaded with life experiences, or at least preordained slots of experiences a user is supposed to have.
Freud is out, Facebook et al. is in. For example, we try things that seem self-expressive using media that can give us quantified feedback, and only when the results come back do we decide whether what was expressed was "true".