The Second Self
Collective Journaling w/ Peter Limberg and Co-Hosts. Daily @ 8:00 AM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.
November 2nd, 2021
I removed Facebook from my life (or what is now unfortunately called “Meta”). I deleted my accounts on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook proper. While deleting the empire of Zuck, I opted to delete my LinkedIn account as well, in solidarity with Camille, who just deleted hers.
I do not want lame shit in my life anymore. And lame is the best word to describe my experience with those apps. I want to be less sloppy with what cyborg anthropologists call the “second self,” aka one’s online identity. I am going to start streamlining the apps where my second self is housed, being more conscious of how my self is showing up online.
The second self. As regular readers know, I am a total sucker for jazzy mental models like this; they assist in harmonizing my mind and help me make better sense of a certain facet of reality. The second self can be conceptually understood as living under the broader notion of the “extended self” - external objects defining the self. In order for an integrated self to emerge, we need to get in the right relationship with both of these selves, along with the other selves—the unique self, the whole self, and the universal self—that Bonnitta Roy was discussing in her ridiculously epic session last week, Origins of the Self: An Integrated Model.
I have been thinking a lot about getting into the right relationship with my second self since starting to journal publicly on March 24th, 2020. Given that this is a first in history that our species is on the internet so much, it makes sense that we need a toolbox of new mental models to help us understand what is happening and more importantly, what to do about what is happening. I will suggest some models in a moment, ones that will be helpful to know for us to get into the right relationship with our second selves.
Firstly, a preface: I understand that all the jazzy mental models dropped in these journals trip some people up. I sense people get intimidated by them, perhaps invoking a sense of feeling stupid for not knowing what a model means, especially when that model is not accompanied by an accessible definition. I do think one of the talents needed during our liminal days, aka “in-between the games” days, is what the folks at the Liminal Space Agency calls “abstragmatics” - the capacity to play with models, rather than being played by them.
This is why Daniel and I strongly advocate getting intimate with many mental models. I have thousands dancing in my mind, ready to become my dance partner when needed. Once a certain capacity is developed with abstragmatics, you can play with the boundaries of existing mental models, redefine them, and set the erotic conditions for them to have sex. You eventually get to midwife some mental model babies, aka you make up your own.
You become less beholden to the impressive verbal prowess of hyper-articulate galaxy brains when you develop some abstragmatics capacities. I am resistant to creating a glossary for these journals for this reason, as I sense it is better for your abstragmatics skill development for me to be definitionally difficult here.
That being said, I will introduce a few mental models now, with definitions, to see how they can work in conjunction with our understanding of the second self. Here are the models I sense are good for us to get to know: the spectacle, supernormal stimuli, and parasocial relationships.
The spectacle. This is Guy Debord’s term, which he avoided clearly defining, but can be understood as something like this: a protean ecology of all the seductively distracting images coming from mass media, enslaving us to the logic of the market economy. The dark alchemy of the spectacle is that it reduces being into having, then having into merely appearing.
It makes us disembodied basically, obsessed with the image of others, along with the image of ourselves, aka our second selves. By getting blindsided by the onslaught of the spectacle, our selves can easily get enmeshed with our second selves, which is the self that is easiest to manipulate from a distance by all the dark alchemists out there.
Supernormal stimuli. I wrote about this in my memetic tribe white paper, defining it as: magnified and more attractive versions of evolved stimuli. In that paper, I wrote about the male jewel beetle in Australia, who started trying to have sex with discarded beer bottles that looked like the butt of a female jewel beetle, but more exaggerated. To put it crudely, they were trying to fuck these beer bottles, ignoring the females, and getting killed off by the sun or by foraging ants in the process. Their species was on the path to extinction, until a campaign to remove the beer bottles took place.
Our species have many supernormal stimuli. This is why I often dunk on porn in these journals, even suggesting we Stoics become PornHub missionaries. The fucked up thing about getting seduced by the spectacle is that it encourages us to make our second selves supernormal stimuli. From turning on the beauty filters to speaking like a fast-talking idiot on YouTube, we are encouraged to become so blindingly hot and interesting that others will drop all of their “IRL” relationships to stare slack-jawed into plastic screens at the digital artifacts that make up our second selves.
Parasocial relationships. This is the model originally used to describe the phenomena of people building imaginary relationships with their favorite television characters. This can also be used towards people building a relationship with someone’s second self, without really knowing the person. Parasocial relationships are unavoidable of course; the game here is not to avoid them altogether. The game here is having a good parasocial relationship rather than a bad one. The crafter of their second self has an important role to play here, encouraging the relationship to be a virtuous one.
Now, to combine all these models into one delicious mental model stew, here are my speculative high-level thoughts on how you can get into the right relationship with your second self...
Emancipate yourself from the spectacle - both as an observer and participant. If your calling (aka the daemon) requires you to engage with the spectacle, adopt a “minimum viable spectacle” approach, giving the bare minimum of yourself to the spectacle. Avoid becoming a supernormal stimulus and be radically you, inviting others to radically be themselves (and not an extended version of you). Parasocially speaking: own any genuine compliments, swat away any weird projections, and fully embody your bespoke venture towards virtue.
I sense I am doing a good enough job at this for now, as I receive messages from readers like this often: Following your hero's journey helps me with mine. Practically speaking, I do not know how this can be replicated. I am in the process of publicly stumbling my way to virtue, trusting you are stumbling alongside me. Something feels right about deleting everything that is Facebook though. I really do not think they are having deep philosophical conversations over at Meta about how people can get into the right relationship with their second self.
Like with Facebook, I am gradually making a similar move away from the company that used to encourage their employees not to be evil. I am trying to use Protonmail over Gmail, DuckDuckGo over Google Search, Tor over Chrome, and Bitchute or Odysee over YouTube. I would like to start dual uploading recordings at The Stoa to YouTube alternatives, using YouTube only as a gangway towards something else. Perhaps something that allows conversations to have more controversial breathing room without the censor hammer coming down.
“Digital gangs” is the phrase we are using at Beyond Self-Discipline (BSD) to refer to cohering online with others. We are not only attempting to combine philosophical fellowships with mastermind groups with BSD, we are also figuring out how to be digitally effective together, encouraging the use of “privacy arts” (using Jitsi over Zoom for example), becoming more sophisticated with knowledge management platforms like Notion, and being more nimble with “Getting Things Done” by using elegant apps like Things.
The other thing we want digital gangs to help with is getting into the right relationship with our second selves, so hopefully with the BSD Lab starting next week (a wildly intense two-month laboratory to prepare for the official BSD launch in January), we will figure out how beautiful second selves can emerge. Again, one of the meanings of the BSD title is for us to collectively cultivate a discipline that is beyond the self.
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