"The rhetoric around social networks has always been, depending on your proclivities, either about connection and socialization, or less charitably, narcissism and presenting a falsely idealized version of yourself to the world. But perhaps it isn’t practical communication or an idealized self that drives much of what we do online as much as it is the abstract idea of the unsullied connection. So much of human communication is wrapped up this desire: our inarticulate, inevitably futile wish to have another person understand us exactly as we understand ourselves. Alas, that person doesn’t exist. The aching chasm between one person and another is exactly what generates so much misunderstanding, but also drives everything from making art to talking over coffee for hours, the very gap itself making those rare moments of connection feel like such ecstatic relief. What we want is to be seen in our entirety, and we are always striving to inch closer to that impossible goal.
Perhaps, then, that Instagram shot or confessional tweet isn’t always meant to evoke some mythical, pretend version of ourselves, but instead seeks to invoke the imagined perfect audience—the non-existent people who will see us exactly as we want to be seen. We are not curating an ideal self, but rather, an ideal Other, a fantasy in which our struggle to become ourselves is met with the utmost empathy."
"The digital archive of the self makes that smoothing effect of time harder to maintain. Those confounded “Memories” or “Flashback” functions in services such as Facebook or Dropbox vomit up images and words from the past at inopportune times—some picture of another ghost to whom you could have been kinder. Meanwhile, Google and Twitter searches dredge up unwanted shards of the self—whether by you or, worse, others with ill intent. If the passing of the years slowly sands down those splinters of cruelty and embarrassment, the digital self as a collection of floating holograms pushes them up again, past selves puncturing through the veneer of a coherent identity to reveal not just our own wounds, but the injuries we have inflicted on others.
If, however, it was once easier to maintain a self through the suppression of what we wished not to remember, the Ashley Madison hack reminds us that, eventually, some secrets will spill out. We joke about the horror of having our Google searches publicized, or our Twitter DMs revealed, but in truth, we know the mere existence of such a digital database makes it likely that something will emerge from the murky space in which digital functions as a canvas for our fantasies or guilt. Collapsed into the same experiential space, the past and present colliding, our digital selves are archives of our identities. This is the holographic self—not a timeline of identity, or a steady accumulation of wisdom, but the criss-crossed network of being a person, mapped out onto screens. To be a digital human is to be many, and in more than one place at once. Am I a good person? Depends on where on the timeless web of self you stand in order to look and judge."
Review of David Sax's The Revenge of Analog - Globe and Mail
"But the neat line separating digital from analog is more fuzzy than it might appear. Sullivan, Sax, and I – all part of a generation who spent their formative years before the Internet and their adult ones completely saturated with it – have also grown up with plastic Nintendo controllers, button-filled digital cameras, and DVD players armed with an array of LED lights. My own home is littered with the tactile remains of no end of technology, and the chubby, reassuring thickness of the first iPhone I still keep tucked in a drawer has already taken on the same sheen of nostalgia I reserve for old school notebooks or sweaters.
As Sullivan's piece spoke of a return from the seductive screens, Sax's constantly extols the superiority of what the text calls "real things." It is, however, a world cleaved neatly into two neat spheres, digital and analog – so much so that near the end of the book, Sax claims that "digital is not reality. It never was and never will be." It's a claim that one might generously characterize as nonsense. To assert that the almost unfathomable explosion of human creativity that fills the Internet sits somehow lower on a hierarchy of ontological realness is absurd."