Defying a multitude of bizarre projections, or submitting to them, would seem to me at the heart of everyday living in America, with its ongoing demand to be something palpable and identifiable.
— Philip Roth
ALL OF US HAVE BEEN GIVEN a certain amount of time to waste. Some we fritter in the old-fashioned ways: by breathing, staring at dull panoramas, playing computer solitaire, or watching CSI. Most of it, however, we now waste on social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, or whatever green alternatives spring up to offer a sop to our need to be seen, what used to be called loneliness. On Twitter, or Facebook, we serve ourselves up in miscellaneous detail, presenting our epigrams and aphorisms and photographs, our urbane or intemperate responses to others. (Hopefully not too intemperate. We are all politicians now.) Consciously or otherwise, we stretch ourselves into flattering (even if, at times, deliberately ugly) postures: We spend time trying to curate, to use that buzzy term, ourselves. Or "selves." It's hard to say which iteration deserves to be considered ironically these days, the one that takes fabulous vacations and lets the world in on its Spotify playlist or the other, the sad sack of skin that slumps in an ergonomic chair. Either way, almost everyone has both. It's a rare holdout by now who won't traffic in @ symbols and hashtags, who doesn't consider all but the most self-embargoed information (I suppose "@____, I have herpes" is still an uncommon move) fodder for broadcast. Fair enough. I won't get into the ethics, or aesthetics, of undersharing, but I will say that those fusty souls, fetishists of privacy or 20th century manners, who don't feel a need to display their dinner plates to the world often find themselves hijacked — by @Abe_Vigoda, for instance, or @Wendi_Deng. Even those who thrive on electronic display are sometimes hijacked too: In addition to @kimkardashian, there exists @_kimkardashian (with 35,000 followers, to the other's 12,000,000), @kimdashteam, @kimkardahian, @kimkardash ... It's no wonder, then, that we are often confused by impostors, delighted by sock puppets, and relieved — most of us, anyway — that we remain singular. Er, duplicate. Triplicate, if you count LinkedIn.
Michiko Kakutani is a refusenik. Predictably, really. By reputation a hermit who opts not to hang out much in the physical world (doubtless those who know her have a different impression, but google "Michiko Kakutani, recluse" and see what happens; see how few photographs, anecdotes, or interviews exist), what use would she have for social media? Perhaps she cultivates this position (which is a "position" whether she wants it to be or not: It is by itself a social gesture) in order to keep herself free of bias, able to review writers without defaulting to feelings about their person. A wise choice. New York publishing is a small world — "small" in many senses — and so it's best not to fraternize with your friends, let alone your enemies, if you hope to keep 'em, and it's best not to mix...