In a way, new technologies have made us all like Baudelaire. We are intoxicated by the multitude but cannot ignore its troubling aspects. Like Baudelaire, we are trying to find our private life in the crowd while protecting our “real” selves in a public persona. Blogs and social networking sites are like diaries with broken locks. They are confessions written for an audience. They let us feel as if we can fabricate a personal world for ourselves, a world we can control. We listen to music no one else can hear and read emails while standing on a crowded bus because we are looking for privacy. Baudelaire used poetry and fashion; we use PDAs and e-readers and the Internet. With boundless access to information, we can easily observe the crowd. But we cannot escape being observed. And we wonder if we can find the private life we’re looking for, either in the public space of the real world or in the virtual one. Baudelaire wrote about the romance of throwing oneself alone, directionless, into the crush of public life. And it is exhilarating — spending your days wandering from shop to shop, fact to fact, video to video, stranger to stranger. But his poetry was a reminder. The passion for roaming means a love of masquerades and a hatred of home. Baudelaire, too, wanted to protect his privacy. But he feared he had lost the very thing he wanted to protect.
more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.