They used to call individualism narcissism. They used to call caring for yourself selfish. Now we call it necessary or normal. ‘One size fits all’ is the most repellently totalitarian phrase I have ever heard. It makes me shiver, but that’s the way it used to be.
My face on my t-shirt and my jumper. It's so me.
People used to go to ‘shops’ to ‘choose’ from a small selection of pre-made clothes, created according to the tastes of others. You had to shoe horn your own desires into someone else’s conceptual framework. How could they have had any sense of individual identity- any sense of self- when they all wore the same things? When I need clothes or want to reconfigure my identity I lie down on my bed, laptop on, head back, eyes open, mouth closed, or perhaps open a little to spice things up. Selfie. Save as. Log onto MyBuy.com. My body settings are already saved. A t-shirt and a jumper to match. Buy. Thirty minutes later, down the parcel hatch arrives my brand new look. My face on my t-shirt and my jumper. It’s so me.
My good friend Dave (God rest his soul), used to say ‘the selfie is a bastardisation of the once sacred concept of the self.’ He would say, ‘Selfie. Self-ie. It’s like the true self is obscured linguistically by that vulgar little suffix, just as it is obscured phenomenologically by those fractious mirrors we call our ‘friends’ (virtual of course), the ‘likes’ of whom serve to validate our existence and define our self through our selfie.’ I said, ‘Bollocks, Dave.’ And bollocks it was. Now Dave’s dead and I’m sat here, happy as hell with my face on my t-shirt and my jumper.
The moment we left the 'us world' behind
Some people locate the moment of rupture- the moment we left the old world, the ‘us world’ behind- at the moment you could first pause live TV. It was at that moment that we were liberated from the constraints of living in time and in line with other people. Apparently people used to gather, or rather had to gather, at the same time- a fixed time- to watch a programme. Apparently they even liked it. ‘Sopranos at nine,’ they used to say with a smile. Being obliged to abide by a universal schedule- that, in my opinion, is oppression of the highest order. Now we live by MyTime, watching what we want when we want.
I don’t know why but today I keep thinking about Dave. Dave with his small head and his large presence. Dave was really mad. He used to say that reading was about empathising, about experiencing the world from different perspectives. ‘Bollocks,’ I said and bollocks it was. Reading is not about understanding other selves- it’s about enjoying your own self. People used to read the same books. Sometimes millions of people would buy the same ‘bestsellers’. Just imagine that! Now we have our own books, or rather we have MyBooks. I just log onto ReadMe.com and select my desired genre and length. Their computer system configures the perfect plot and characters for me using decades of data acquired from my browsing habits. And there’s none of this putting myself in someone else’s shoes nonsense- I’m the main character in my own books.
I PRINT MY OWN DRUGS
Dave used to tell me that ‘the selfie is symptomatic of the loneliness inherent in the human condition.’ He was adamant that we thought it was the cure but he thought it was a symptom. ‘Take holidays, for example,’ said Dave, his bright black eyes bouncing in their sockets, ‘holidays will help you understand what I mean. Everybody used to go on holiday with their friends. It was always something you shared with friends. People who went on holiday alone used to feel lonely. Now everybody goes on holiday alone but they don’t feel lonely because they can share it with friends who aren’t there. They share the selfie with a canyon or a kangaroo and the likes roll in and it’s like their friends are there with them. It’s these likes that validate their existence and stave off the loneliness of the solitary, unshared experience,’ said Dave. ‘Bollocks,’ I said and bollocks it was. Now Dave is dead and I’m here, just back from a fulfilling holiday on my own which I shared in its entirety on MyHoliday using my selfie head cam.
Dave used to talk a lot about going to raves just off the M1 and feeling the love and all sharing the same drugs and the same music. ‘Eyes roll lazily and harmony hangs in the air,’ said Dave. He adored the sense of community. I can’t think of anything more horrific. Now when I want to get high I just log onto MyHigh. I state my current mood and my desired mood and that’s it- no more questions. The fewer questions the better- answering questions leaves too much room for human error. The chemical formula is primarily calibrated from decades of browsing data stored on me. It is often a completely new compound, just for your brain. MyHigh is delivered within thirty minutes, or even better, printed off immediately using a 3-D chemical compound printer. I now print my own drugs. MyHigh. OurHigh doesn’t even rhyme. The days when everyone took the same drugs, one size fits all, the same drugs for all brains, those days must have been awful. No wonder they had so many bad trips.
I don’t know why I keep thinking about Dave. He’s been dead for a long time now. He killed himself for lack of self love. That will never happen to me.
This article is part of Cafébabel's 2013 'Narcissism' series. There are four more articles in the series which are currently being translated and will soon be available in English.