I have often referred to how the advances in technology have proven a great boon for my kind. Not only does technology allow us a greater reach, to more people, more often and more easily it provides us with camouflage. The genesis of the “selfie” is testament to that. Once upon a time if you wanted to be in one of your own pictures, you asked somebody else to use your camera to take a picture of you and your friends or perhaps you against some fantastic backdrop of scenery.
Now the advent of the camera phone has allowed everybody to take a picture of themselves with friends, with a famous person, in front of a landmark, pulling a stupid pout, holding up beer and so on. This need to be “in on the shot” is a nod to the narcissistic traits of entitlement, boundary violation and grandiosity. Of course, not everyone is of our kind and just because you have a tendency to take selfies does not make you one of our kind either. What it does though is increase the backdrop of narcissistic tendencies so that ours fit even more readily into what society is doing. Fifteen years ago if someone kept pestering other people to take a picture of themselves in different poses and places, eyebrows would be raised. Now if you see someone holding their ‘phone up and pouting, you do not bat an eyelid. It is expected. This narcissistic tendency has become mainstream and we welcome this, as it allows ours to be merge with that mainstream to, enabling us to move more easily amongst you all.
When you take that selfie you are engaging in performance identity. You are reinforcing your identity as against the performance of standing and taking a picture of yourself which you then plaster across several social media outlets, text to your friends and quite possibly set as your wall paper. Performance crime is the instance whereby a perpetrator engages in criminal activity which he or she records. How many videos have you seen on Facebook where a fight is in progress and nobody halts it, but instead they stand around cameras held aloft filming the fracas? How often have you seen people posting pictures of themselves committing some criminal act, be it the use of drugs, assaulting somebody, criminal damage or theft? It also goes to include those acts which may not be criminal but would be regarded as morally reprehensible. Taking photographs of somebody who is drunk asleep in the middle of the road rather than helping them, snapping away at someone who has soiled themselves or vomited. Taking pictures of someone’s mishap or misfortune and adding a supposedly witty insight in white text across the bottom of the picture. These behaviours are all geared towards performance, showing off and putting on a show.
We are masters at performance identity. We are defined by what we do to an admiring and attentive audience. Our every move is choreographed, our entrance carefully planned. We walk the urban landscape with an imaginary soundtrack playing in our heads as we strut along, considering ourselves to be in some kind of film or documentary. A puzzle once went along the lines of,
“It a tree falls in a forest but there is nobody there to hear it, did it make a sound?”
The modern day equivalent for our kind is,
“If we did something but nobody saw it, did it really take place?”
We are defined by what others see us do and their reaction to it. Whether it is admiration, hatred, anger, upset, terror, grief, hilarity, amusement, praise, love or adoration there must always be an emotion infused reaction. This reaction defines who we are because it provides us with fuel. It tells us that we are brilliant, feared, furious, dominant, entertaining, witty, sensational, beautiful, remarkable and so forth. The reaction is everything for the fuel it provides but also because our performance allows us to define what we believe what we are, the outward appearance the world must see as opposed to the one locked deep away and never permitted to be viewed.
You all engage in performance identify. Often it is of little consequence but it still shapes part of what you are. The growing tendency for people to engage in performance identity means that our need, our absolute need to do this, will not always stand out as much as it might. Yes, it draws a reaction but this need for attention may not always be seen for what it is. People just regard us as outgoing, bombastic, entertaining, the life and soul of the party, at the centre of everything. There are scores of polite ways of saying attention seeker without realising that is what you are doing. We must do it however, we must perform from the moment we rise from our beds until we return to it again in order to draw fuel and to create that which we want the world to see. The world may indeed be a stage, but it is a stage for my kind and me.