Rowan with her now trademark pink glasses.

Baseball Cards

Instead, let me agree with Deresiewicz that we do turn to social media for subjective affirmation, that we are in his words "hoping that someone, anyone, will confirm our existence by answering back." But let's not sound too quickly the battle cry of narcissism. Let me argue that answering back—one to group and back again—is the unique power of social media. And let me argue that it both intensifies the call for and makes possible the realization of confirmation impossible in an atomistic, modern age. Further, all that chattering predisposes us to the tentative nature of the narratives upon which we emerge(d) and through which we are sustained. Sharing the ephemeral—our edges—is what helps define us to each other and, more importantly, to ourselves. There's an underlying psycho-social reason why many of us feel the need to share intimate details with groups of friends—reasons that don't amount to self-infatuation. Status posts describing coffee grinds in the fridge, remarking on the tea in Kentucky, exploring "what Lost character am I?" critiquing the sexist speech of telemarketers, or hailing the rediscovery of AC/DC aren't necessarily extensions of a childhood verse "I am special. Look at me" (to quote off the flap of Twenge and Campbell's hyperbolic The Narcissism Epidemic). Perhaps they are really a lone sonar ping searching, hoping, for confirmation.

Recognizing what was once considered foundational as perhaps only chatter tends to ramp up disequilibrium. As Deresiewicz himself notes, echoing Foucault, the institutions of the 19th and 20th century—church, state, school—so central not only to subject formation but also to subjects maintaining (after all subjectivity is not an isolated event but rather enacted patterns of performativity) have lost much of their cultural hegemony. Add to this the list of emaciated discursive institutions the literary canon and even the television network (Oh Andy Griffith, oh Cosbys, oh Simpsons, where have you all gone?). Today, I choose my identity from more than three channels. Given both the volume and diversity of the cultural cacophony, we are left evermore loquacious over a seemingly expanding abyss. We can talk ourselves both to and from its edge. It's a matter of choice and perspective. I think my story has likely cemented both for me. How about you?