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My High, My Buy, My Life : Dystopian Dreams

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Joel Lewin

LifestyleSelfie Dossier

|FICTION| We can per­son­alise the ob­jects and ex­pe­ri­ences in our every­day life to an ever greater ex­tent. We can de­sign our own shoes and our own TV sched­ules. It's all about me, me, ME. These are the imag­i­nary mus­ings of some­one liv­ing in a dystopian so­ci­ety in the fu­ture that has taken the con­cept of per­son­al­i­sa­tion, in­di­vid­u­al­ism and the selfie to the ex­treme...

They used to call in­di­vid­u­al­ism nar­cis­sism. They used to call car­ing for your­self self­ish. Now we call it nec­es­sary or nor­mal. ‘One size fits all’ is the most re­pel­lently to­tal­i­tar­ian phrase I have ever heard. It makes me shiver, but that’s the way it used to be.

My face on my t-shirt and my jumper. It's so me.

Peo­ple used to go to ‘shops’ to ‘choose’ from a small se­lec­tion of pre-made clothes, cre­ated ac­cord­ing to the tastes of oth­ers. You had to shoe horn your own de­sires into some­one else’s con­cep­tual frame­work. How could they have had any sense of in­di­vid­ual iden­tity- any sense of self- when they all wore the same things? When I need clothes or want to re­con­fig­ure my iden­tity I lie down on my bed, lap­top on, head back, eyes open, mouth closed, or per­haps open a lit­tle to spice things up. Selfie. Save as. Log onto My body set­tings are al­ready saved. A t-shirt and a jumper to match. Buy. Thirty min­utes later, down the par­cel hatch ar­rives my brand new look. My face on my t-shirt and my jumper. It’s so me.

My good friend Dave (God rest his soul), used to say ‘the selfie is a bas­tardi­s­a­tion of the once sa­cred con­cept of the self.’ He would say, ‘Selfie. Self-ie. It’s like the true self is ob­scured lin­guis­ti­cally by that vul­gar lit­tle suf­fix, just as it is ob­scured phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cally by those frac­tious mir­rors we call our ‘friends’ (vir­tual of course), the ‘likes’ of whom serve to val­i­date our ex­is­tence and de­fine our self through our selfie.’ I said, ‘Bol­locks, Dave.’ And bol­locks it was. Now Dave’s dead and I’m sat here, happy as hell with my face on my t-shirt and my jumper.

The mo­ment we left the 'us world' be­hind

Some peo­ple lo­cate the mo­ment of rup­ture- the mo­ment we left the old world, the ‘us world’ be­hind- at the mo­ment you could first pause live TV. It was at that mo­ment that we were lib­er­ated from the con­straints of liv­ing in time and in line with other peo­ple. Ap­par­ently peo­ple used to gather, or rather had to gather, at the same time- a fixed time- to watch a pro­gramme. Ap­par­ently they even liked it. ‘So­pra­nos at nine,’ they used to say with a smile. Being obliged to abide by a uni­ver­sal sched­ule- that, in my opin­ion, is op­pres­sion of the high­est order. Now we live by My­Time, watch­ing what we want when we want.

I don’t know why but today I keep think­ing about Dave. Dave with his small head and his large pres­ence. Dave was re­ally mad. He used to say that read­ing was about em­pathis­ing, about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the world from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. ‘Bol­locks,’ I said and bol­locks it was. Read­ing is not about un­der­stand­ing other selves- it’s about en­joy­ing your own self. Peo­ple used to read the same books. Some­times mil­lions of peo­ple would buy the same ‘best­sellers’. Just imag­ine that! Now we have our own books, or rather we have My­Books. I just log onto and se­lect my de­sired genre and length. Their com­puter sys­tem con­fig­ures the per­fect plot and char­ac­ters for me using decades of data ac­quired from my brows­ing habits. And there’s none of this putting my­self in some­one else’s shoes non­sense- I’m the main char­ac­ter in my own books.


Dave used to tell me that ‘the selfie is symp­to­matic of the lone­li­ness in­her­ent in the human con­di­tion.’ He was adamant that we thought it was the cure but he thought it was a symp­tom. ‘Take hol­i­days, for ex­am­ple,’ said Dave, his bright black eyes bounc­ing in their sock­ets, ‘hol­i­days will help you un­der­stand what I mean. Every­body used to go on hol­i­day with their friends. It was al­ways some­thing you shared with friends. Peo­ple who went on hol­i­day alone used to feel lonely. Now every­body goes on hol­i­day alone but they don’t feel lonely be­cause they can share it with friends who aren’t there. They share the selfie with a canyon or a kan­ga­roo and the likes roll in and it’s like their friends are there with them. It’s these likes that val­i­date their ex­is­tence and stave off the lone­li­ness of the soli­tary, un­shared ex­pe­ri­ence,’ said Dave. ‘Bol­locks,’ I said and bol­locks it was. Now Dave is dead and I’m here, just back from a ful­fill­ing hol­i­day on my own which I shared in its en­tirety on My­Hol­i­day using my selfie head cam.

Dave used to talk a lot about going to raves just off the M1 and feel­ing the love and all shar­ing the same drugs and the same music. ‘Eyes roll lazily and har­mony hangs in the air,’ said Dave. He adored the sense of com­mu­nity. I can’t think of any­thing more hor­rific. Now when I want to get high I just log onto My­High. I state my cur­rent mood and my de­sired mood and that’s it- no more ques­tions. The fewer ques­tions the bet­ter- an­swer­ing ques­tions leaves too much room for human error. The chem­i­cal for­mula is pri­mar­ily cal­i­brated from decades of brows­ing data stored on me. It is often a com­pletely new com­pound, just for your brain. My­High is de­liv­ered within thirty min­utes, or even bet­ter, printed off im­me­di­ately using a 3-D chem­i­cal com­pound printer. I now print my own drugs. My­High. OurHigh doesn’t even rhyme. The days when every­one took the same drugs, one size fits all, the same drugs for all brains, those days must have been awful. No won­der they had so many bad trips.

I don’t know why I keep think­ing about Dave. He’s been dead for a long time now. He killed him­self for lack of self love. That will never hap­pen to me.

This ar­ti­cle is part of Cafébabel's 2013 'Nar­cis­sism' se­ries. There are four more ar­ti­cles in the se­ries which are cur­rently being trans­lated and will soon be avail­able in Eng­lish.

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