Consuming Ourselves

Our Digital Self is a product not a person (Solon, 2011). Technological advances in media production over the past 20 years mean that everyone has become a marketing manager, a photographer, a filmmaker, a star, a brand. We have evolved from the postmodern consumer (Fromm, 2013) into the product to be consumed. We photograph our lives as social media marketing content to sell our brand. We even have our own AI photographic retoucher in our pocket- our phones automatically impose a skin smoothing filter on each selfie we take (Madrigal, 2018). We have become so used to seeing filtered versions of our Digital Selves that when we look in the mirror we are faced with unacceptable imperfection in our Real Self (Curran and Hill, 2019). Luckily for us, along with technological advances, there have been advances in cosmetic surgery.

As we have become used seeing filtered and surgically augmented versions of the Digital and Real versions of ourselves and others, we have become besieged with worry about being negatively evaluated by everyone else. We are unable to deal with criticism or failure (Moynihan, Welch and Foster, 2020). In fact, criticism as it existed 20 years ago, no longer exists, instead we face ‘cancellation’ – as if we were an unpopular television show. Consequently, a whole generation has become frightened perfectionists obsessed with taking selfies.

Because we are able to edit and retouch both our Digital and Real Selves, we have started to believe that perfection is not only desirable, but possible. Near perfection- or even just ‘good enough’- however, is unacceptable. The need for perfection isn’t just directed at ourselves. Demanding an all-encompassing perfection from others and perceiving excessive pressure for perfection from others (Curran and Hill, 2019) has increased to the point where a large percentage of the population seem to desire nothing less than a kind of utopia and believe it can be achieved. They insist upon their idea of ‘perfection’ (perfect thought, perfect intention, perfect speech…) from everyone.

This quest for perfection is consuming a huge amount of our time, a huge amount of our thinking and a huge amount of ourselves.

The very same society that produces this sense of alienation and estrangement generates in many a craving for reassurance, an acute need to believe, a flight into faith. [They] seek redemption from the spurious.” (Merton, 1949)


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