Can Personas Ever Relate to one Another?
On the fungibility of fake love and our hunger for the real deal
Ours is a culture that elevates the self above all else and posits it is the sole determining factor in our success and happiness. When it is not being commodified and exploited for personal gain and personal growth, the reality of love gets overlooked.
The moment we begin to think of love in transactional terms is the moment its essence escapes us.
Who doesn’t hunger for reliable human warmth, the comforting presence of another who tolerates us like we tolerate them? Like most everything else in our lives, what we think of as love is a deal, an agreement, something to show off for kudos and clicks, a status update or upgrade, social proof attesting to our desirability, be it financial, intellectual, or emotional. It is factual evidence we are no longer — as all of us come to suspect and fear at some point in our lives — as unpairable as we believed ourselves to be.
What we think of as love is reassurance, a habit, or both. Being the single digit in a word made for multiples invites stigma and we look upon singlehood as a black mark against a person’s character. We do not understand why anyone would prefer their own company when going it alone so very clearly limits what we are capable of.
To opt out of the human warmth paramount to our wellbeing would be a form of self-harm. In an attempt to protect it, the mind sometimes buries the heart alive in an elan of self-love gone rogue. When the reflected self can no longer look away from its own magnificence, greed is born and we proudly declare we are the one we have been waiting for.
The grim truth is that no one wants us so we make do, regardless of our relationship status; curated appearances seldom reflect reality and there is also no guarantee that the words we write and speak contain any truth other than our wishes.
Greed has no concern other than its own growth. It feeds on everything that can be commodified for gain, including the pain inherent to being a human in the world, especially lovelessness. Nature abhors a vacuum and must fill it with hope, even when said hope is manufactured and carefully calibrated to deceive.
Your brain boner is real but this person is not; they are a marketing exercise designed to assess the value of human emotions, what attracts, what sells, what repels, and what bores. When it doesn’t swallow us whole, greed always causes love to question its existence: What’s the point of selflessness if it doesn’t directly benefit us? Accepting another as they are instead of as we wish they were? Giving them a safe space to find their feet in a dance made for two? Building something without any guarantee it might stand the test of time?
Love as it is sounds like such a terrible deal we keep rewriting it for the digital age, with instant return on investment in the form of vanity metrics. But attention isn’t love and neither is curiosity; often, it is all we can see so we assume it is all there is, a parade of ruffled peacock feathers.
No one wants us so we make do by not so much wanting others but wanting to be them because they look like they’ve got it made: Everyone knows their name and they have money.
Spectating the lives of our peers as we daydream of fame and celebrity has made us impervious to truth and we keeping mistaking fanciful representations of success for the real deal: Someone has achieved something they never thought they could do, whatever that is.
Because everything is always bigger and better in America, we’ve blown this up to equate success with fame and fortune.
Television has turned us into simplistic-minded creatures. First we elected a movie star to the presidency and now we have a reality show host. We also have media at our fingertips as traditional gatekeepers struggle to remain relevant. And yet, despite all the tech tools at our disposal, Trump, personas, and the growing garbage patch of meaningless content currently constitute the pinnacle of human achievement.
Is it any wonder we mistake eyeballs for interest when we do our utmost to thrown ourselves at people all the time, giving them no choice to look at us, be that through us even? “Look at me, please love me,” would be the power anthem of the internet if there was any money in it. Alas, this kind of honesty is the sole preserve of those to whom it would never occur to advertise it.
Love so self-aware it has come to terms with its own impending extinction would terrify us all; we could never accept the uncertainty or surrender to the mindfulness it requires. What we think of as love has to be scheduled, routinized, optimized, measurable, and concrete, and all random acts of spontaneity pre-planned and accounted for, even on Valentine’s Day.
All this play-acting is exhausting us as we lose the willingness to interact with one another, graceless performing seals jumping through hoop after hoop, moistly failing to get noticed because we’re all doing the same thing at the same time.
What we think of as love we do not think of as a celebration of our shared humanness but as a habit we can hack. We are still not very clear about what it is or what it does or even entails, only that it seems to be the answer to all that ails us. So we try it on ourselves and when it fails to change our life despite what everyone has been saying, we politely pretend that yes, we are the hero of our own life even though we’re so lonely we could howl.
For the most part, we write about all the things our lives are missing and they all boil down to the source element: love. Even our greed is love, monstrous and distorted though it may be, an ersatz for our cravings. We’re miserable because we do not have the courage to embrace the kind of love that only answers to itself and has no expectations.
We do not know what to make of something that defies quantifying, measuring, understanding, and therefore commodifying. Capitalism has trained our hearts and minds to expect and track returns on all our investments; the possibility that no returns may be forthcoming strips love of all potential investment value.
And so we swipe on, tweaking our persona until another persona relates to it; we’ve forgotten how to be real but, somehow, we’re making do.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.