We go about grooming ourselves each morning: Editing that late-night Facebook post, brushing teeth, uploading a filtered pictured of the sunrise, washing face, Tweeting an interesting career-related article, ironing clothes. Who am I kidding? No one irons anymore. But we do go about tending to our personal brand as though it were as necessary for social survival as maintaining hygiene. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be all that much healthy about it. We are all marketers now — delusional, unsatisfied self-marketers.
We even groom and market our intimate relationships for public consumption. In a Thought Catalog article entitled “This is How We Date Now” that recently went viral, author Jamie Varon writes, “Say we find that person we love who loves us. Commitment. Intimacy. ‘I love you.’ We do it. We find it. Then, quickly, we live it for others. We tell people we’re in a relationship on Facebook. We throw our pictures up on Instagram. We become a ‘we.’ We make it seem shiny and perfect because what we choose to share is the highlight reel. We don’t share the 3am fights, the reddened eyes, the tear-stained bed sheets. We don’t write status updates about how their love for us shines a light on where we don’t love ourselves. We don’t tweet 140 characters of sadness when we’re having the kinds of conversations that can make or break the future of our love. This is not what we share. Shiny picture. Happy couple. Love is perfect.” But worse — “Then, we see these other happy, shiny couples and we compare,” Varon says. The crux of the problem, Varon identifies is that these “lives do not exist. These relationships do not exist. Yet, we can’t believe it. We see it with our own eyes. And, we want it. And, we will make ourselves miserable until we get it.”
So how out of touch with ourselves are we becoming because of this same phenomena? In a 2012 TED Talk, psychologist and author Sherry Turkle warned that all of the tiny snippets of conversation that happen over text and Twitter do not add up to a real conversation. Conversations happen in real-time because they are real; “texting, emailing, posting — all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit and that means we get to delete. And that means we get to retouch the face, the voice, the flesh, the body,” Turkle lamented. “Human relationships are rich, they’re messy, and they’re demanding and we clean them up with technology.” If we’re always trying to put on our best face and then even when we accomplish that, we want to highlight and overexpose that face to get more likes, comments, followers, we rob ourselves of the highest form of honesty: Our ability to be honest with ourselves. If we cannot be honest with ourselves, we cannot be honest with others. And where, as Turkle notes, all of this technology is compromising our capacity for self-reflection — “a skill that is the bedrock for childhood development” — it is also compromising our ability to accept ourselves and accept others, to love them thoroughly, truly, and deeply — the bedrock of intimacy — for all of their flaws and all of their typos.
Don’t do your little time on this earth injustice by marketing your life or your love like a product. You simply can’t do so without detaching yourself from the reality of this fragile world. You might miss the fact that the beauty of our crazy existence is that we are all mad here.