Challenges of Self-Identity
Living in today's world presents a whole range of complicated processes related to existential and ontological visions of humanity and humans. One of the major points for philosophical consideration and debate is the transformation and deconstruction of self-identity that an individual faces about themselves and to the world. Thus, as a result of multiple expectations and a variety of social situations, self-identity becomes flexible and highly adjustable, which leads to the loss of one's true self and alienation.
As Giddens reasonably points out, presentation of self is challenged by a threatening number of interactions, during which a person tends to switch from one mode to another, which eventually leads to the formation of a false self. A person's social intellect seems to grow as they tend to meet the requirements of perfect image and communication in each particular case. However, the focus is so much shifted to meeting expectations of the environment that the original self is lost. Eric Fromm is quite clear about this tendency:
The individual ceases to be himself; he adopts entirely the kind of personality offered to him by cultural patterns, and he, therefore, becomes exactly as all others are and as they expect him to be . . . this mechanism can be compared with the protective coloring some animals assume. They look so similar to their surroundings that they are hardly distinguishable from them. (Fromm, in Giddens)
Stephen Marches article Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? is related to that idea as well, as the author links activity in social networks with the concept of conformity, which leads to adaptation of one's self to expectations of society or its particular circle and the feeling of frustration when one discovers the discrepancy between the expected and the real. As a result, a person is alienated from other people, but this feeling of loneliness is not so much about the failure to meet others' standards, but about alienation from one's own self. One's true identity is devalued, and a person is no longer self-sufficient but is in a constant rush to gain other people's attention and praise. Doing so by posting a successful image of oneself on social networks is the most comfortable chance to avoid facing the truth for a while until deception of others and self-deception becomes evident.
When discussing the phenomenon of loneliness caused by (or resulted from) extensive use of social networks, it is necessary to note that its observation correlates with the concept of fragmentation suggested by Giddens. As he writes, A person may be on the telephone to someone twelve thousand miles away and for the duration of the conversation be more closely bound up with the responses of that distant individual than with others sitting in the same room (Giddens). Thus, the trend is that a person can be more involved in distant events or distant people rather than focus on his daily routine that takes place in his immediate physical surrounding. To a large extent, this can be explained by a strategy of escapism when one's own life seems dull compared to glossy images and luring opportunities that the global world can offer. Procrastination of one's own psychological problems can be directly reflected in people's behavior and outlook. Social networks like Facebook are an illustrative example of how desperate a person may be to escape from one's true self in the imaginary world where it is easier to communicate and sustain a positive self-image. This comfortable sense of security and personal meaningfulness is deceptive; however, loneliness is its other side, What Facebook has revealed about human nature...is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity (Marche).
It is also interesting how this seeming focus on tracking other people's lives is, in fact, a projection of one's own ego that needs attention. Whenever people use social networks to stay tuned, they apparently think about self-expression. Yet, it is deeply rooted in demonstrating one's identity to other people, so spectators are necessary. As a result, a person focuses on connection to others and simultaneously gets alienated from one's true self. The extent to which this is relevant today is exposed by the author by the fact that many psychologists, counselors, and life coaches have grown several times in recent decades because people are unable to build a healthy bond with others. This is why they prefer to pay to ease their task of sharing and curing, as doing so helps to avoid the risk of being hurt, which is inevitable when close relationships are built. In the face of this social disintegration, we have essentially hired an army of replacement confidants, an entire class of professional careers... We have outsourced the work of everyday caring (Marche). This bitter irony of the researcher is understandable and it makes one think how today's society has made the avoidance of pain its main purpose, for which people are ready to pay mentally and materially.
The idea of this self-centeredness is also supported by Wallace who treats that as a source of human loneliness and frustration. When he describes typical stressful routines that an average person has daily, he describes this typical outlook, my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it is going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way (Wallace). So, there is a paradox between people's desire to meet other people's expectations and stay connected and this total self-centeredness that accompanies the process. In fact, the author underlines that this manner of thinking is what dehumanizes human life. Moreover, according to the author, this default setting devoids people of choice and freedom. As a result, she or he finds it impossible to brink the limitation of their point of view and overcome that self-centeredness by trying to get sincerely interested in other people. One can ask themselves who is a person next to them, no matter if they are strangers or friends. This attitude gives a chance to overcome the alienation about which all the authors talk in different manners. Remarkably, loneliness is often linked to the lack of interest in other people while expecting their attention. So, the clue is given how to deal with this trend of today's reality.
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Overall, all the considered texts focus on the challenges that people have to face in today's world due to specific lifestyles and communication. The shift of values and habits has led to fragmentation and alienation of self-perception from one's true self. As a result, people are becoming lonelier while staying connected with a larger number of people via Facebook and other networks. Yet, this networking is superficial and does not create a hearty bond, but, on the contrary, creates an illusion, which has a painful ending. At the same time, using social networks is just one way to escape from challenges of communication and to avoid being interested in other human beings instead of being totally self-centered.
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