Tying freedom and privacy is an exhilaration that masks a fear.
If, as Freud remarks, the child’s first successful lie against the parents is his first moment of independence — the moment when he proves to himself that his parents cannot read his mind, and so are not omniscient deities — then it is also the first moment in which he recognizes his abandonment. The privacy of possibility has opened up for him. If you get away with something — though, as we shall also see, it rather depends on what it is — you have done well and you have done badly. You are released but you are also unprotected. You have, at least provisionally, freed yourself from something, but then you have to deal with your new-found freedom. The ambiguity of the phrase is partly to do with the odd picture of freedom it contains. An exhilaration masks a fear.
Adam Phillips. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.
This for me serves as a comforting (though daunting) backdrop to a story by Michael Harris (author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) in the Globe and Mail. The story is headlined: “Damning with praise” and subheaded: “A radical uptick in social-media use has produced an economy of accolades into which all users are drawn. Today, we are all performers and we all have to decide: Will I read the reviews?”
[Y]ou’re letting those people control what you think about yourself. That’s dangerous for a bunch of obvious reasons. But the harshest — the really toxic reason — is that, once you’ve been pumped up by the praise of others, you can be squashed by their criticism. If you were buoyed by the kudos, you’ll be sunk by boos.
I am convinced that the negative valence is underwritten by the fear of exposure as outlined above by Phillips. Even if not a single critical statement is made, there is a certain anxiety. Consider the definition of social anxiety given by Ellen Hendrikson in an interview in The Guardian:
Social anxiety is often thought of as a fear of judgment or a fear of people, but that’s not accurate. Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we’ll be judged or rejected as a result.
For instance, we might have the perception that we are boring, awkward or have nothing to say, or any one of a million perceived flaws. We might avoid parties for these reasons, but we might also avoid them covertly by going to the party and only talking to the friend we arrived with, by scrolling through our smartphones or standing on the edge of groups.
So the root of social anxiety is fear of this reveal, and it is grown and maintained by avoidance.
Can we rally to a call for an economy of intrinsics? Cultivate an indifference without being indifferent?
And so for day 2137