I missed the death of Yvette Vickers, a past Playboy playmate and B-movie star, known for her role in “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” She would have been 83 last August, but no one knew how old she was when she died. It was apparently a big story in Los Angeles, not because of the way she lived, but because of the way she died.
She had been dead for the better part of a year when a neighbor noticed the accumulating letters in her mailbox, and forced her way in and through the junk that littered the house. When she found the woman, she was mummified, near a heater that was still running and in front of a computer that was glowing in the empty space.
The last e-mails on her computer weren’t to friends or family, but to fans who had seen her as “the 50 foot woman” years before. Her “web of connections had grown broader but shallower, as has happened for many of us….. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are,” writes Stephen Marche in the latest issue of The Atlantic. It’s a fascinating and powerful article, well worth reading. The author focuses on the social media, and especially Facebook, citing studies and stories that demonstrate that more and more of us are lonely at the same time as we’re more connected than we have ever been. He argues:
Our omnipresent new technologies lure us toward increasingly superficial connections at exactly the same moment that they make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy. The beauty of Facebook, the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society—the accidental revelations we make at parties, the awkward pauses, the farting and the spilled drinks and the general gaucherie of face-to-face contact. Instead, we have the lovely smoothness of a seemingly social machine. Everything’s so simple: status updates, pictures, your wall.
Then, he came to the point I found especially persuasive, possibly because it intersects with my own amazement and confusion over the contemporary end to privacy, and the profound need people seem to have to put themselves on display. Facebook is one more place where we perform, where we are on stage, day after day, almost continuously. 750 million pictures are uploaded over a single weekend.
More than half its users—and one of every 12 people on Earth is a Facebook user—log on every day. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, nearly half check on Facebook minutes after waking up and 28 percent do so before getting out of bed. The relentlessness is what is so new, so potentially transformative. Human beings have always created elaborate acts of self-presentation. But not all the time, not every morning before we even pour a cup of coffee.
Yvette Vickers’s computer went on and on without her.
I have a wooden woman flying from my ceiling in my study. She’s got wonderful wings, or are they fins? She also has a fish tail and a lovely face. What sets her apart from others of her genre is that she’s looking in a mirror and combing her hair as she flies. I always thought she represented vanity, but the other day it came to me that she represents much more than that. She’s the creature as narcissist, so busy looking at herself she’s not concerned about where she’s going. Self-presentation is what’s important, not her destination or even how she’s going to get there.