The illusion of personality

There are few things I resent more in electronic communication than those automatic emails written in such personal language as to give the impression that they were specifically written for the addressee. You and I are getting them almost every day.

A tacit complicity between sender and receiver. They both know it’s all a trick, but both are willing to welcome the deception. The sender deceives the receiver who deceives herself that someone cares enough for her to write. The farce ends with both parties happy to have been involved in this form of impersonal communication parading to be personal. Nobody cares, and yet everyone thinks they do.

The theatrics of online communication require perhaps that our impersonal avatars are cast in personal roles so as to give the illusion of personality. When the communication is mediated by so many layers, there is a kind of gravity pull towards a semblance of humanity, embodiment and personhood. We all want to appear human beings when we exchange electronic missives, in fact code clothed in legible text. We think we do.

One can make the argument that most, if not all, of the online world is a simulacrum. A simulacrum of ourselves, of others, of the world itself, copies upon copies piled upon facsimiles of realities, constantly being shaped and obeying no physical laws other than the laws that the guarantors of this environment choose to instate and submit to. The illusion of communication is so strong as to make us wonder whether that’s an issue at all. Our bodies stay home while our minds wander through nodes and pixel-lands.

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