THE SELFThe shift from industrial capitalism to post-industrial capitalism has, among many things, shifted the way power and control is exerted and how it functions. The distinctions between work and other aspects of our lives have blurred into each other, demanding us to always be on, always be improving, always curating ourselves. According to neoliberalist thinking, humans are atomized individuals always acting in ways to increase their own self-interest. A quote from Noam Chomsky describes neoliberal democracy by saying: “Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless." It’s no wonder we’re burned out. We’re living under a system that goes against human nature and this creates an exhausting existence. The psychological needs we have as humans, such as a sense of belonging and security, don’t line up with the ethos of neoliberalism. But then we are told that the stress, anxiety, depression and exhaustion we experience is our responsibility to fix. We are made to believe that it’s an issue caused within. We become preoccupied with treating the symptoms rather than the social causes. And who can blame us? It’s what we have to do to survive. How do we shift or alter the focus onto overcoming collective suffering?
The new surviellance society creates our desires and these desires are fueled by a lack. Digital technologies and social media demand a lot from us. Curating ourselves and the performance it requires burns us out and it often feels like there is no refuge. To use these technologies, we give away our data as a tradeoff. This data flow constructs a fragmented data double which is used to surveil, control and commodify us. It’s a digital duplicate of our lives, captured in data and spread out. In the article “The Surveillant Assemblage” Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson write, “We are witnessing a convergence of what were once discrete surveillance systems to the point that we can now speak of an emerging ‘surveillant assemblage.’ This assemblage operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings and separating them into a series of discrete flows. These flows are then reassembled into distinct ‘data doubles’ which can be scrutinized and targeted for intervention.” Our data doubles become more important than our physical bodies, split up into different parts, molded to best serve whatever company or entity is using it. Our data is what is useful and our everyday behavior is used to make a profit. Technologies influence our behavior in ways we aren’t even fully aware of. We think we have complete freedom, but we don’t. We’re expected to always be growing, changing, working. Striving to become our best burns us out. Technologies that mediate the self–Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin–hurts the self. It causes us to be hyper-selfconcious and hyperactive.
We become our data and our data is how we are valued. It’s commodified, used for economic gains. Instead of challenging our stress, depression, anxiety and general unhappiness by questioning the cultural, economic and environmental factors that contribute to our collective experience, we are told that the source of the problem lies within us. The striving to become our best burns us out, and this demand to always be on, changing, growing leads to exhaustion. We try to become better verisons of ourselves to survive the system, which then just reinforces the conditions of the system.
REFERENCESDino Franco Felluga, “Introduction to Psychoanalysis & Freud, Lacan, Kristeva”
Ignacio Valero, “Emotariat Accelerationism and the Republic of Data”
Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson, “The Surveillant Assemblage”
Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power