The Culture of Me, Myself and I

It’s the oldest form of art there is: the first person narrative. For as long as we humans have gathered around campfires, we’ve also shared our stories. Over time, the campfire has made way for the office watercooler, the open-mic night, or the occasional autobiography. Now we have blogs, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

It used to be that each person would have to wait their turn around the campfire to tell their story. Now it’s as though everyone’s talking simultaneously.

Alex Williams writes in the New York Times Sunday Styles section about the surge in first person storytelling at open-mic nights. Williams writes more people are flocking to such storytelling events in the hopes of parlaying their story into a book deal or a one-man show on Broadway.

Storytelling in this manner has apparently become so relevant to the moment that it can no longer be confined to a few sporadic events populated by a small group of would-be memoirists. After all, it’s basically just confession, Mr. King [Anthony King, artistic director of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater] said, and everyone seems to be confessing the most intimate details of their lives on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“The private is now public,” Mr. King said. “And great source material.”

This self-obsession is not just limited to storytelling – it’s also manifested in images, as Euan Kerr reported a while back. Self-portraits abound, as people seek to document their lives on Facebook and MySpace.

So what are the consequences of this “culture of the self?” Is it democracy in action, in which all our voices have equal power? Or will all the great voices naturally rise to the top? Have we all become our own personal curators, choosing which stories are worth following?

What, if anything, are we losing?

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