I Am Narcissus, and You Can Be Too

Opinion by Vihan Lakshman
March 10, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

I had a professor freshman year who believed that, in the not-so-distant future, students and literary scholars alike will study tweets in the same manner that we today carefully analyze poetry or paintings.

As I pictured high school students trying to scan the meter and explicate meaning in one of Justin Bieber’s heartwarming, soul-penetrating pearls of wisdom, such as “Goodnight ladies #muchlove,” the idea immediately seemed ridiculous to me.

But maybe I just wasn’t able to appreciate what my professor was saying that day because I have a very detached relationship with technology. I handwrite all of my written assignments (including this article) because I don’t like staring at a computer screen for long periods of time; heck, I even prefer to write out lines of code on paper before transferring them over (which I realize makes absolutely no sense). My younger brother also loves to make fun of me because I can see all of the apps on my iPhone without having to slide my thumb across the screen.

That’s why I probably scoffed at the idea that our future Wordsworths will express themselves in the world of 140 characters. But that was before I actually tried my hand at the whole social media thing—before I dived into the world of the little blue bird.

I made my Twitter account in November of my freshman year—a month after that class discussion—in an attempt to interact with listeners during my KZSU Radio volleyball and basketball broadcasts. After a barrage of initial tweets, however, I neglected my account. I kept that strange egg photo placeholder instead of posting a real profile picture, and my Twitter activity was reduced to posting the occasional “Stanford basketball up by five at halftime” when I suddenly remembered that I had a Twitter during a broadcast.

Up until two months ago, I didn’t really give a second thought to my Twitter account—and I’m sure my whopping ten followers didn’t either—until one day I noticed that the number had shot up all the way to eleven, with the additional subscriber being none other than star defensive end Ben Gardner.

I had just come out of a midterm which I was certain I had failed, but getting the Ben Gardner Twitter follow instantly made that day one of the best in my life (#priorities). Immediately, I became paranoid about having an account worthy of @BennyG49 and hungry to attract more followers. Thus, I made the conscious effort to tweet regularly.

At first, I only documented a few important moments that happened each week. Attended a lecture by a former Secretary of Defense. Tweeted it. Washed my hands next to Bill Walton in the Maples Pavilion bathroom. Tweeted it.

In two weeks, I couldn’t get enough of Twitter, even after Mr. Gardner unfollowed me (#pleasecomeback). Now, I was tweeting everything that popped into my mind because I loved the idea of being able to talk about me to the entire world (or at least my lean and mean ten followers). Remembered that I had a club meeting while brushing my teeth. Tweeted it. Craved a large burrito. Tweeted it. Watched curling on T.V. Tweeted it. Soon, I was devoting a large chunk of my day to the land of 140 characters, thinking constantly about what events in my life needed to be shared with the world and agonizing over every last hashtag.

Today, Twitter and I are enjoying a healthy, moderate relationship after I decided that it was too much work to document every single detail of my life. I’ve also resigned myself to the fact that Ben Gardner is not coming back (#please?). Above all, I now believe my professor was absolutely right: The tweet will become the literary art form of the future because I have seen—in my experience and in the accounts of others—that people are willing to pour their lives out on social media. Tweets, by default, will become the way of the future, because who has time to write books and poems when there are so many moments to document and favorite?

Do Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and many similar platforms promote narcissism? Absolutely, but that is not such a bad thing. Sure, they can cause unhealthy obsessions and limit “meaningful” productivity, but they allow people to share their lives, talk about themselves to a wide audience and maybe even become the revered poets of future generations. I, for one, am proud to send off Bieber as the poetic ambassador for our generation.

Sure, Narcissus withered away from not being able to take his eyes off of his own reflection, but during that short period of time when he was alive and deeply, madly in love with himself, he must have felt pretty damn happy.

Vihan Lakshman invites you to join his weekly Sarcasm Club at [email protected].

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu

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