Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The quest for validation.

Out of the virtual diarrhea of commentary on Anthony Weiner's weiner, the commentary by Ross Douthat struck a chord with me, and so I muse a bit following these clips from his piece:
In the sad case of Representative Anthony Weiner’s virtual adultery, the Internet era’s defining vice has been thrown into sharp relief. It isn’t lust or smut or infidelity, though online life encourages all three. It’s a desperate, adolescent narcissism...his “partners” existed less to titillate him than to hold up mirrors to his own vanity...a growing body of research suggests that American self-involvement is actually reaching an apogee in the age of Facebook and Twitter.. In a culture increasingly defined by what Christine Rosen describes as the “constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves),” just being a United States congressman isn’t enough. You have to hit the House gym and look good coming out of the shower, and then find a Twitter follower who’s willing to tell you just “how big” you really are...Facebook and Twitter did not forge the culture of narcissism. But they serve as a hall of mirrors in which it flourishes as never before — a “vast virtual gallery,” as Rosen has written, whose self-portraits mainly testify to “the timeless human desire for attention.”
After feeling a bit superior reading this article about 'poor Anthony Weiner' I turn it around to try this as a description of myself. Why do I write this blog, why do I put effort into piano performance and posting the videos of recent playing? In my most lucid moments I genuinely feel that the "I-it" relationship is primary, my own personal experience of immersing myself in great ideas or great music, and then secondarily sharing this experience with others. But it is also the case that another Deric, the kid who showed up at 4th grade show-and-tell with his grandfather's dress U.S. Calvary sword to impress everyone, is a motive engine. So I also stand guilty as charged above. Still, "the timeless human desire for attention" is the inborn mechanism by which our brains grow and we become selves by mirroring and then internalizing the selves of others. To do this we must grab the attention of others, and thus have a desire to perform so that they will be impressed. At some point, however, we hope to have ourselves more or less together as adults, and let go off our earlier insatiable longing for validation. (It is not surprising that the most common outlets for remnants of this longing are real or imagined fantasies of sexual attractiveness.)

1 comment:

  1. There is, of course, also the question why the reader (in this case myself) would follow this 4th grader. That is because we constantly assess what others are doing in their particular predicament of the human condition. Via empathy, we don't have to make all our mistakes ourselves. We can learn from others, vastly expanding our experience.
    I remember my aged father, dropping a word here and there every so often, and I couldn't make sense of them at the time, all the while knowing that they were significant. Now his words in my memory are guide posts on my own journey. We don't only live to ourselves.