Social media’s charts and metrics turn us into quantified digital versions of ourselves

From the article:

“On LinkedIn, we see ourselves in reflection – as we do all the time, though perhaps without such bar-graph depth. Life online is a hall of mirrors, where we catch our own visage multiple times a day. ….

We’re always encountering these self-likenesses. The sheer quantity and variety matter, but what’s more interesting is that they are not like a reflection in the mirror. Instead of the face and upper torso, we see retweet counts and Google search results. Lots of these self-likeness snapshots confront us as numbers and text. Seeing ourselves like this, tallied and set in type, almost certainly changes the self-image we carry around. The result is not just amped-up self-consciousness, but a different kind altogether – more thing-like and tabular. The self that’s looking back through the glass resembles an instrument panel…..

As a result, we’re getting used to seeing ourselves as detached and distributed – as something external to our bodies and inner experience. It’s true that we have been thinking about ourselves as objects to be managed (and promoted) for a long time. “Possessive individualism” is a major strand in the history of the Western self, one that political scientist CB Macpherson has traced back to the 17th century. Certainly the injunction to “sell” oneself predates Mark Zuckerberg. But the self-likeness deluge can’t help but amplify the point: you’re the product and its chief marketer. The language of “self-branding,” so recently off-putting and gauche, is now utterly banal – in part because we’re spending so much time tuning and calibrating and viewing our web-based doppelgängers…..

Data-rich self-representations aren’t new – think report cards and resumes. There are just a lot more of them now. It’s like a perpetual Google alert – and with no real opt-out. The result is something like digital self-consciousness, in both the behind-the-screen, computerized sense and the ones-twos-and-threes numerical sense….

We come to see ourselves as fungible objects, requiring constant work – product-improvement work – to exchange for friendship, employment and self-esteem. Those are good, necessary things, of course. But Facebook and its rivals need us to keep preening, posting and working. That way they can deliver tailored ads that, in their targeted flow, look like us.