Not to be outdone by the boys, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, The Jersey Shore‘s sample-sized sexpot renowned for bitch slaps given and received, has gone decidedly more highbrow than Pauly or Sitch, penning A Shore Thing, a roman à clef detailing the Jersey shore’s many sweaty pleasures. Author Snooki’s protagonist is one Gia Spumante, a café au lait party girl on the prowl for “gorilla juiceheads” and good times.
Consumerism can make you happy. It has rectified the age-old problem of the self’s division from the world. For in consumerism’s simulated world, in the constant stream of advertisements whose narratives have become as familiar and comforting as bedtime stories, the gap between life and essence is closed. This gives some of us a peace of mind that hasn’t been enjoyed since antiquity when, as theorist Georg Lukács writes, “the fire that burns in the soul is of the same essential nature of the stars.” The world created by consumerism is a world where meaning is once again immanent, and the devoted consumer need never wonder how in purchasing a certain item she can make reality conform to her desires and her desires conform to that reality.
Every relationship has its own specific character, its own lifespan, its own seasons. Some bloom, then wither quickly, while others root themselves deeply in the years. Facebook aims to do nothing less than deny relationships their specific character submitting them to its algorithmic regime of prompts, goads, alerts and suggestions. Facebook seeks nothing less than to discipline friendships to the demands of the marketplace, which places an ever-increasing premium on the production of consumer data. Facebook gets you to work on relationships by making relationships into work. And even if the relationship no longer exists, even if you no longer exist, one imagines humming servers dumbly issuing their commands over the transmission lines
Perhaps a certain slice of unemployment — for the current generation of well-educated 20-and30-somethings, former publishing professionals or not — is actually an unanticipated career shift, into the full-time job of broadcasting ourselves, of being ourselves for public consumption. In a sense, the over-coddled “damaged” youth now displaced from the traditional workforce have been perfectly trained for “work” in the information-services field, provided it is sublimated as a rococo mode of elaborate self-fashioning. They only seem unemployed, but they are busy self-branding. Viewed optimistically, the immaterial labor they perform online for various internet companies by using social networks, writing unsolicited reviews and essays, recommending products and links, and “sharing” in a host of other ways, could be regarded as new kind of meaningful work that is supplanting the old kind which involved bosses, hierarchies, assignments, deadlines, bullying, commuting and so on. Sure, the new work doesn’t pay, but with a generous enough social safety net, it wouldn’t need to. In the post-work utopia, we’d meet our expenses through a government-issue living wage, energetically promote ourselves and lifestyles online, and consume “free” entertainment product to keep ourselves busy in the interim. Forget the culture of narcissism. Welcome to the economy of narcissism.
Given that other great trend in Japan — internet suicide clubs — cosplay and civil unions between gamers and their video vixens seem quite tame. But it’s hard not to imagine that such strange pastimes are in part due to the horrors that were perpetuated sixty years ago in the name of ending the Second Great War. It’s hard not to imagine that the United States, a nation that also suffers from a strain of postmodern malaise all its own, had something to do with all the young adults wandering the streets of Tokyo dressed like some purple-haired action figure. Sixty years ago people failed to conform to themselves, to recognize the limits of their moral and intellectual capabilities and to work toward extending those limits so that they might master the consequences of their technologies. Now, as a consequence, these technologies have mastered people.
I sense that people have conceded that trying to cultivate an identity outside market relations is self-defeating (something my preppie-punk teenage self and friends only learned bye the bye), so the best thing to do is to accommodate oneself to the consumer profile that best suits one’s proclivities and sentiments. The existential question is not whether to conform or not, but whether to conform to one prêt-à-porter lifestyle or another. This latter question at least relieves one of having to confront to the dreariness and tedium of living a life of categorical refusal — of “tarrying with the negative” as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, following German idealist philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, might say. After all, one has only one life to live, so to throw it on the pale fire of one’s scruples seems a waste indeed.
Given our current economic situation, having a nation of mirror gazers doesn’t bode well. It means that most of us are too damn fabulous to devote any time to stop the looting of the Treasury, to protest the closing of our public libraries (which almost happened to Harrisburg’s Free Library), or demand a stop to that wholesale destruction of the middle class that is currently going on. A glance at most Facebook pages will tell you that people still care more about running that sub-50 marathon or getting up the courage to suffer that first prick of the Botox-filled needle than considering what the United States will look like in ten years (needing substantial cosmetic surgery itself, undoubtedly).