Mind the Gap and Self-Generated Identity: The Clues We Choose
Allow me to channel my inner Rod Serling for a moment, picture if you will, that you’re waiting in line for your coffee, you bump into an attractive stranger, and after a few minutes of pleasant conversation, you an your new acquaintance exchange names and phone numbers. Now, imagine that same night you’re at your computer, and on a whim you do a quick Facebook search using the name on your napkin. They wrote their name and number on a napkin, did I not mention that? Anyway, there they are beaming from a profile picture, just as you remembered them. Suddenly you realize that they like all the wrong music; they have terrible taste in movies; and to top it off they’ve listed the book that made you switch majors in college as their favorite. You crumble the napkin and thank God you dodged that bullet. This isn’t the twilight zone at all. This is any given Tuesday.
Let’s up the ante shall we? What if you found yourself unable to remember who you are, and all you had were a list of songs and movies, maybe a few books to help you put yourself back together again? Would this help? What if you could see the people you were friends with? What about pictures of yourself sharing martinis with colleagues, or Thanksgiving Dinner with your family? Would you have enough to start imagining who you might have been? Could you put yourself together again?
In the series, Mind the Gap, by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, & Sonia Oback the central character, Elle, essentially starts reconstructing her identity from details like this. Elle had a great fall, and all the song preferences and movie references might just put her back together again.
Ellis Peterssen finds herself caught between life and death after being pushed from a subway platform. The plane she inhabits is called ‘the garden,’ while she is there, things start coming back.
Though, they are not exactly the kinds of things that one might hope for. She can recall the life story of an actress from a music video (remember those?) She can also see the people who come to visit her, and she puts together judgments about their character from her observations.
Imagine for a moment that all you have to go on are a string of photos, brief encounters caught in time. Flip through your Facebook photos, who would seem important? Who is under or overrepresented? Do the pictures tell a story about who you are and who matters to you? Is it better story than you think you might deserve? Or not even come close to how great it really is?
Have you ever known someone who passed away who had a social networking account? Did their become the most popular person in your network of friends posthumously?
What if you had been around to see this part? The hospital bed, the worst and best in the families and friends as they tried their best to deal with what has happened in messy human ways? How different would that be? These are the moments this character has to work with.
She also has music and movies.
Elle can remember details, lyrics, story lines and stars from movies, basically everything that we fill our minds with on a daily basis. How often have you wished that you could use the space in your head used to store the lyrics to “Wannabe,” by the Spice Girls for something better? I mean no one wants to know that song, but so many of us do, its stuck there. We forget our grandmother’s birthday, but recall the entire original cast of Heroes by name and role. What’s even stranger is how much more we talk about what we consume than what matters to us in order to convey who we are.
If you met someone for the first time and they asked you to describe a meaningful experience you had when you were younger it would probably scare the hell out of you. We would rather talk about our favorite band or compliment one another’s clothing than get personal. What’s hard to believe is how personal those things have become. We are what what we read, eat, listen to, watch, and wear. I know from Facebook that my friend Jane Doe and three others like Tide detergent, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I know her from. Hold on, I am going to unfriend her… ok, I’m back. Anyway, my point is this, what we take in is often what we put out for others to see, but how much of ourselves are put into our consumer choices?
Eventually the tiles of the mosaic start to come together for Elle, she can remember her relationship with her friend, Jo. It’s important to note that the connection is based on shared consumption, not a personal memories or experiences. It’s a shared interest in an external product that ultimately reunites Elle with the conscious world.
What we like, or share, or consume is a part of who we are. It is at a very basic level how we adapt to our environment. It’s part of our humanity to take in our world internalize it and try to make it a meaningful part of our sense of self.
What do your choices say about you?
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