How to Be a Person

What does it mean to “just be yourself”? To “act natural” or “act normal”? These statements seem paradoxical. After all, when are we not ourselves? The cliché to just be yourself seems like one of the worst bits of advice for living, yet it touches on one of the most profound inquiries in the humanities: what does it mean to be a person? This question has new relevance in the contemporary moment as we are regularly called upon to present ourselves as already formed brands/personalities, particularly on social media networks but also in social gatherings, job interviews, and the workplace (not to mention college interviews and the college classroom).

The dilemma of authenticity – which involves identifying the fake and the real, the forged and the genuine – is central to the human experience, the search for identity, belonging, and is thus integral to our contemporary lives. This course places special emphasis the implications of this dilemma for the production and presentation of self in social media networks. The relationship between technology and what it means to be a person will constitute a principal theme. 

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5 credits of Arts and Humanities coursework towards the Areas of Inquiry requirement.