We are a society full of Voldemorts. No, I’m not actually calling you a no-nosed, undead snake-man. I don’t even know what that kind of insult would mean.
No, what I’m saying is that not one of us can be named, not because we have no names but because we have no intact selves. Our lives are built of Horcruxes of an even more sinister variety than Tom Riddle’s: Where he had to kill others to break off pieces of his soul, we turn our electric wands inward to carve ourselves directly.
Think of the number of Facebook friends or Instagram followers you’ve got. Now think, how many of those people have access to your online presence more often than they have access to you in your physical body. If you use social media at least as much as I do, way more people interact with your online expressions in a given day than with your IRL self.
This, comrades, is our system of Horcruxes. We call it a social media presence, for Christ’s sake: We’re pretty straight-up with ourselves about the fact that we are splitting ourselves, to the detriment of our flesh-and-blood souls. To fully realize this, because it’s tough for us fish to realize we’re wet when we’ve lived so long in the sea, we only need to think of how we talk.
Sometimes I think it’s beautiful to say that a work of art is “a piece of the artist.” But we’d never say that about performance, right? Like, I wouldn’t tell a friend who just performed a play, “That play was a piece of you.” We say a painting or a poem is a piece of its creator, or that they’ve poured their soul out on paper or something like that, because the art is now separate from the one who made it, and people can see the art without knowing the artist and build a portrait of the artist in their heads. This can be beautiful.
But when that process of tearing out bits of ourselves and placing them into inanimate objects becomes a central part of life, it fucks us up. Royally.
I can never see all of myself or think all my thoughts at once, so I only ever know myself partially. So I’ve gotta flesh-out my inner picture of myself by reverse-engineering the ways people interact with me. And that’s great if I’m only having to reverse-engineer interactions with people I’m conversing with right here and right now. But if I’m also defining myself by the perceptions of hundreds or thousands of internet-simulations of people, I’ve got two problems:
First, I’m defining myself according to things outside my body, so I lose a fundamental sense of where I am in the world. I’m here behind this keyboard but I’m also there behind your keyboard: I am torn apart and planted in thousands of digital horcruxes.
Second, all those horcruxes hold only little pieces of me, from which people may then construct a full persona. So I get conflicting messages from all sides, as the “me” in the heads of all those I interact with on social media is a different “me,” extrapolated from different pieces and posts and built in different ways. So when I try to fill-out my sense of self by looking at how people interact with me, I end up bamboozledly constructing a legion of selves, because each of those people sees a different me.
Hence the rise in anxiety diagnoses. Of course our thoughts are gonna race and loop and maul each other if we’re having to sift through thousands of selves to find the one that feels like I.
Now, sure, some sort of social media presence is almost necessary in 2017. It’s a fundamental part of social life: People don’t mail invitations to things. They just make a Facebook event and post up flyers on Instagram. But that just means it’s become fashionable to remove ourselves from our locations in time and space, to scramble our minds by defining ourselves by the perceptions of more people than we can possibly conceptualize, to scramble our views of other people, too, by removing them from their bodies as we remove ourselves from our own.
My question to you all, then, is this: Would it be better to cut ourselves off from mass-communications and social media, knowing it will certainly improve our mental health, or is there some way to use social media while remaining a non-Death-Eater? Comment on this Facebook post with your thoughts. Ha.