JIa Tolentino was 16 years old when she first understood what it means to be someone else. In a mall, she goes to an actor to get a reality show on a whim, driven by her parents jokingly. Is taken. For three weeks, I filmed “Girls v. Boys”. Four boys and four girls, a vacation home with bunk beds, challenges on the beach, it’s about who can eat a mountain of hot mayonnaise the fastest and who is the first to cook with it. But most of all, of course, it’s all about who you want to be – or who you should be.
Like every teenager, Gia Tolentino deals extensively with questions like this, dreads how her friends and classmates see her, and thinks before the show how she can prevent appearing like a slut without looking the wisdom of what she sees. But even then, Tolentino’s ideas of correct self-ranking were in the wildest episodes: she did not “watch” herself only to live “as I really am,” as she wrote in her diary. Instead, she also fears that this self-monitoring will make her very aware of her performance, and that she risks becoming “my role”.
Ironically, it was precisely participation in reality presentation that liberated her from this form of paranoia: she could no longer keep pace with self-observation due to the sheer remark: “As long as everything was a solo performance, it seemed impossible to perform it. Consciously,” she now writes in an article in Her book “Trick Mirror”, where fifteen years later, she chronicles her experiences from then and from there to the present. “Knowing if I was being seen pushed me away from wanting to see myself, to analyze myself as a role. (…) After a few years I thought that the impression I made on others, like the weather, was out of my control.”
Because of this, Tolentino never watches the show when he’s on TV. She just gets back the search recordings for her article and talks to the other participants and the product. He notes that her television experience did not completely free her from her perceptual frenzy, but rather formed her subconscious mind: “The process of adapting to my external self was so instinctive and automatic that I no longer consciously perceived it. Reality TV freed me from self-awareness and at the same time linked me with it by making self-awareness inseparable For everything else, it was a useful, albeit dubious, preparation for life in the clutches of the Internet.
With these meta reflections, when the “Trick Mirror” appeared in the US at the end of 2019, Jia Tolentino got on the nerves of one or two whole generations of people whose daily practice was an appropriate and useful photo midway in the mirror cabinet of social media to design it yourself. Critics showered the book with praise and only agreed on the question of whether Tolentino was “Susan Sontag of the Millennials” (“The Washington Post”) or “Joan Didion of Our Time” (“The Eagle”). And the flashy cover made itself into photos, where an advanced Instagramer can present their self-reflecting perception, is even better than the stylish “New Yorker” handbag that Tolentino has been writing for regularly since 2016.