I learned about Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage formulation through my English Literature for Young Readers course. I was reading an article by Karen Coats for the seminar on fantasy, and that formulation has proven valuable for my degree project. I realized a while ago that it can also be applied to something else. I guess you could call it today’s selfie culture, or internet culture overall. Let me elaborate…
We take selfies in a way that brings forth our best features and edit them in a way which hides or erases our bodily/facial flaws. That is the ideal. That is the best we can look, and it’s “flawless”. But we know that the real us, the body and the face that’s not in the picture but is the one that lives and experiences, is far from flawless.
Let’s extend this notion to the internet in general. The internet provides a sense of anonymity and a shield. This is no news and something you fellow bloggers understand well, so I don’t have to explain it. These tools that the internet arms us with, also allow us to create an ideal. We create an ideal personality. On the internet, people will only judge what they see. And what they see is what you choose to show them. In real life it’s considerably more difficult to control how people view you – an art only psychopaths master completely.
Now the mirror stage itself is an observation, but if it can be applied successfully to the use of the internet (particularly social media) today, then a problem rises. Where once there were huge gaps between the internet and real life, now there are bridges between those gaps. First we could only type to each other, now we can see and hear each other. Internet is very real, and will continue to grow in its veridicality. But those ideals that we create… they’re not. We accept those ideals as mere ideals when we look in a mirror or take and edit a selfie (also remember the difference between how we look in the mirror and how we look in the picture). But how much are we really aware of the character we build up of ourselves on the internet? How aware are we that that character differs from the one in the real world… where we’re not as powerful?
I think this problem is greater for those who don’t know themselves well. You guys agree with me, as your feedback has proven in an earlier post, that too many are ignorant by choice. The most important thing isn’t to know the world, it’s to know oneself. Only when one accepts oneself as a flawed creature, and that the mirror will always lie one step ahead, one is in control.