What is the ultimate difference between life in the 20th century and life in the 21st? We all live in the 21st century with another self, a self less authentic but far more permanent. The self we present to the world, our second selves, is already an inauthentic copy of the consciousness who lives inside our minds, how much more untrue to ourselves are these internet avatars: our third selves?
The Unconscious Anxiety of the Photograph:
The internet takes away our corporeal form; or at best, it takes away the third dimension of our corporeality and the fourth dimension of our evolving consciousness, replacing it with two-dimensional images of our physicality as it was captured at a definite time, in a definite place, from definite angles, distance, and clarity. On social media, the photograph, already such an injustice to capturing complexity of a person's essence, becomes a permanent image of bits and bites that represents us, uploaded permanently to websites as an image open to the public where people can view the photo, download it, use it for any utility they find fit. And yet, these photos may unwittingly reveal parts of us we did not even realize there are. Generally, photos used to belong to their owners, perhaps to be put in an album, and of no use except as mementos to the people who took them. Now, they can used as information bought and sold by corporations and governments, composite data, whose every detail from the colors of the clothes we wear to the place at which the photo is taken to the very facial structure itself, is measured to better understand our desires so that both corporations and governments can understand how we think and sell us the desires they hypnotize us into having. Of what point becomes the freedom of choice history won for us at so steep a price if technology can bypass the human condition to make us do its bidding? If technology evolves to the point that it controls the human condition, freedom becomes an irrelevance. Therefore, these photos may eventually become more of sum-total of a human being in all his or her roundness than the human being him or herself. In an age when unconscious technology may become more conscious of our desires than we are, are we living things anymore, or just another piece of technology used as a tool? The Fourth, and Fifth Selves
There is no way that every person who leaves a comment on the internet does not know in their bones that they are leaving a permanent impression of themselves for posterity. If the photograph can reveal parts of us which we are unaware are there, then at least we can control the words we emit, or so we think. The words we write on the internet are our mark of individuality, the way by which we define ourselves. We become like Felix Fecit, the 3rd century slave of Roman Britain who carved his name into a piece of pottery, and thereby became the only Roman slave not involved in the Spartacus rebellion whose name we still remember. Every piece of internet writing is a shot across the bow of ephemerality with a new, nuclear-grade weapon, to preserve our names, our personalities, our essences, for all time. But is the personality expressed by our words our true personality?
Our ability to make an impression of our personality on others is determined by our ability to make our words have personality, and therefore, if the words take on a more vivid personality than the person who formed them, all the better because our minds convince themselves.
Even past this third self of the internet is a fourth and a fifth self, for within every mind is both the person we wish to imagine ourselves, and the shadow self - the demon within all of us who takes over when we are reminded of the distance between the person we wish ourselves to be and the person we are. The more chance we have to present ourselves as more attractive than we really are: stronger, smarter, more glamorous, the more opportunity we give everybody else to point out the distance between who we are and who we wish you think we are. The more we present ourselves on here as better than we are, the more chance there is for our worst selves to take over.
For the biggest temptation of all is not to present ourselves as smarter or stronger, or even to portray our lives as more exciting. The biggest temptation of all is to present ourselves as better morally: more right, more virtuous, purer of heart. And the purer we think our hearts, the more we hate the ostensibly impure with our whole hearts, and the more we hate the impure, the more we think ourselves entitled to ostracize them. The purer we are, the more impure we become.