How Snooki Explains the American Identity Crisis

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Snooki, the infamously out-of-control cast member of reality TV hit Jersey Shore, has recently come under scathing attack from all corners of society, including the New York Times, as the embodiment all that is wrong with America today. But blogger Matt Sisto warns that Snooki's critics are missing the entire point and are "over-looking an essential truth about The Jersey Shore: in so many ways it is symptomatic of the culture that produced it. In my mind anyone who has a twitter or facebook page is not much different in action than the cast members. The only difference is the scale. ... they represent breaking the barrier between ourselves in reality and the third wall of our self-awareness."

Snooki, Sisto argues, reveals the ever-shrinking gap in America between who we are and how we broadcast ourselves to the world. As the Internet gives us greater control over our endlessly streaming personalized broadcasts, we curate tightly controlled identities that come to challenge the real thing. He explains:

There are two kinds of social reality: perceptive reality and objective reality. The first relates both to how we see ourselves and how we construct ourselves to be seen. Objective reality is all about what’s really happening. For instance, I might choose to post pictures of myself in which my nose does not look as big and Jewish. The objective reality is that my nose is in fact big and Jewish. But you wouldn’t know it you only had the digital perception to rely on.

Snooki doesn't just explain that gap--she acts out our struggle to close it. "A large part of how we spend our time now is in trying to eliminate the gap in perception and reality," Sisto writes. "My fear is that we are becoming locked-in to the assumption that who we are online is who we are in reality. As social networking sites become more and more pervasive we accept as totally normal our online voice and images. The lock-in comes in the form of our losing touch with the gap between the objective reality and perceptive reality. We assume that there is no gap because we’ve so habituated ourselves to the task of digital sharing."

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Sisto explains that Snooki, as well as other Jersey Shore cast members, are so fascinating not because of their wild behavior but because they act out, in real time and right on the screen, the increasingly American struggle to close the gap between who we are and who we advertise ourselves to be. "On some sub-conscious level we are all struggling with the divide and it’s refreshing to watch someone lose their grip and let their real self shine through."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.