Sunday, December 23, 2012

BORN TO BE PUBLIC

"Can my Facebook qualify as performance art?"

I'm not saying I hate reality, I've just made my own which happens to be 100% fantasy fueled. Instead of embarking on an insipidly poignant expository piece which meticulously digs into our psyche like a lackluster college sociology textbook, I'm approaching the subject matter in a more shallow way. And I swear to God (read as: Suzie Orman/God) that anyone who has fostered a memorable presence on the Internet will resonate with the following banter that has been circulating my cerebellum for the past few months.

It's unequivocally clear we're living in a digital age. Our inundation with social networking allows us to forge online identities and tailor our personas in whatever way we desire. Our virtual existence is performative. Our profiles highlight this performative nature of identity by virtue of having the ability to select what we project and by doing so, create multiple versions of ourselves.

As an active participant in NYC nightlife, I've learned that the importance of having a "schtick" is an undeniable prerequisite if you want to be noticed. You cultivate your persona and display it shamelessly in the digital realm. You are then expected to corroborate the same fascination and aura in person as you exude online. In other words, you're supposed present yourself in a way that captures that latest Instagram photo you've posted.

My personal mantra is the age-old Italian phrase "la bella figura" essentially meaning "always put your best foot forward." Even if you're taking out the garbage you better be wearing your best pair of Louboutins. You know that feeling of being watched? I feel it every minute. It's like a spotlight that is always on me. I don't even go to bed without looking a least bit presentable in case a burglar invades my space. I don't want said intruder to witness me looking like a god damn muggle!

Liz&Greg
At the same time, this pressure can become overwhelming. Even though I'm a self-proclaimed visual entity and Internet spectacle, appropriately calling myself "Mania," I'm expected to be Mania around the clock. There are some days where I just want to sit back and enjoy a PBR and not dance on tables, terrorizing the local crowd gathering at whatever venue and slinging cheap vodka in peoples' faces. I feel like if I show up dawning flaccid hair and looking relatively tame that I will disappoint everyone.  However, my insatiable appetite for receiving an eyebrow raise is fed by the perpetual need for shameless attention seeking. It's ultimately rooted in vanity and narcissism, but the purpose for portraying myself in this manner isn't purely for the sake of shock value. It's merely to inspire; to ameliorate any feelings of inadequacy or insecurity an individual may harbor and to reject the axioms of beauty society bears on us.

Reputable sociologist Erving Goffman is known for his theory that we as humans are on stage every minute. We play multiple characters a day depending on the social interaction taking place: when we're with family, socializing with cohorts, or even alone. Social media's indisputable ubiquity in our lives has taken this theory a step further. It has become a whole different ball game; one can even argue our online presence can shapeshift into a bizarre form of performance art which parallels reality in an uncanny way. We are blurring the lines between the virtual and physical world. The Internet gives us the opportunity to carve our own space in this world and provides us with the chance to have our voice heard. I mean sure, there's that constant access to the web that is readily available to us from an array of devices which poses a threat to face-to-face communication and the overall annihilation of articulating ourselves without using Internet jargon...but hey! If you're media literate and conscious of the impact this digital boom presents, the possibilities are endless. 

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