A recent article in The Guardian (oh Lord, how many times has he started a blog post like that?) queries the notion that one’s online activity offers an accurate snapshot of the self. The author, the deliciously-named Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, muses:
Before I read this study, I had assumed that everyone experienced those moments where, when they’re in the process of doing something particularly derivative and cliche [sic], they take a moment to consider what a massive, contrived stereotype they actually are.
Well, I don’t know if everyone has those moments, but I certainly do. Despite my outward insouciance, recently I’ve been getting terribly self-conscious about what I post on social media and what others may infer from it.
For example, yesterday I posted the following image on Facebook:
and appended the comment:
This is what looks over my left shoulder. It makes me wish that Luis Buñuel had directed a mash-up of The Great Gatsby and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Mind you, that pretty much sums up how I feel about Bangkok.
Which is all well and good, but depends for its full effect on the reader having seen a few Buñuel films, read both Fitzgerald and Orwell and maybe having spent a bit of time in BKK, thus understanding how big, staring eyes fit into the scheme of things. Can we assume such things these days? Are they in the canon that my average Facebook follower should be expected to know? What about blog readers? Do I have to spell it out or can I rely on you to Google in the gaps? Am I just a great big steaming intellectual snob? Is that such a bad thing anyway?
Then, a few hours later, someone on Twitter was enthusing about how wonderful it was that Peter Higgs had gone away on holiday without a phone so he could avoid the inane questions of journalists when the news of his Nobel Prize was announced. I replied that this was indeed pretty cool, but Doris Lessing’s reaction to winning the literature prize in 2007 was even better:
which got such a good response on Twitter that I cross-posted it to Facebook and several people chortled while all the time I was thinking, “Jesus, exchanging witticisms about Nobel Prize recipients, is that the acme of middle-class intellectual wankery or what?” Or is the acme of middle-class intellectual wankery in fact worrying about whether other people think you’re a middle-class intellectual wanker? I think I’d better work harder on my insouciance.