Psychological Studies

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 258–265 | Cite as

The Self: Cohesive and Fragmented, Elusive and Kaleidoscopic

  • Neil AltmanEmail author
  • Jillian M. Stile
Review Article


In this paper, we discuss processes of self-development in the contemporary context of rapid cultural change and social/vocational mobility. People must make and remake themselves continuously as technology evolves; education must be life-long to prepare people for the fading of long-term jobs and the emergence of short-term consultancies. Traditional and stable cultural forms and mores rapidly give way to flexible practices in relationships and in work life. We focus on social media, particularly Snapchat, to illustrate how identities have come to be formed only for the immediate present in a visual medium. Claude Lanzmann’s refusal to include archival footage of the Jewish Holocaust in his film Shoah is a precedent for a timeless approach to history that recognizes the past only by its reflection in the present. We compare this notion to the psychoanalytic idea of transference, in which the personal past is understood to exist, to all intents and purposes, only in the present moment of the analytic relationship. This way of thinking allows us to orient ourselves to a cultural world in which the history of the self is sedimented into its immediately present manifestation.


Fragmented self Identity Social media 



  1. Allendorf, K. (2013). Schemas of marital change: From arranged marriages to eloping for love. Journal of Marriage & Family, 75(2), 453–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baruth, K. (2014). Psychological aspects of social media and mental well-being. Journal of Human Services, 34(1), 84–88.Google Scholar
  3. Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1985). Habits of the heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bion, W. R. (1967). Notes on memory and desire. Psycho-analytic Forum, 2(3), 272-273m–279-280.Google Scholar
  5. Brewer, M. B. (2007). The importance of being we: Human nature and intergroup relations. American Psychologist, 62(8), 728–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bromberg, P. (1998). Standing in the spaces: Essays on clinical process, trauma, and dissociation (p. 192). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  7. Charoensukmongkol, P. (2018). The impact of social media on social comparison and envy in teenagers: The moderating role of the parent comparing children and in-group competition among friends. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(1), 69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons.Google Scholar
  9. Currie, E. (2005). The road to whatever: Middle class culture and the crisis of adolescence. New York: Picador Press.Google Scholar
  10. Denizet-Lewis, B. (2017). Why more American teenagers than ever are suffering from severe anxiety. New York Times Magazine, October 11, 2017, retrieved from
  11. Erikson, E. H. (1956). The concept of ego identity. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 56–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Faulkner, W. (1951). Requiem for a Nun. New York: Penguin Random House.Google Scholar
  13. Freud, S. (1949). The ego and the id. London: The Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  14. Friedman, A. T. (2017). American Glamour 2.0: Architecture, spectacle, and social media. Consumption, Markets & Culture, 20(6), 575–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gangoli, G., & Rew, M. (2011). Mothers-in-law against daughters-in-law: Domestic violence and legal discourses around mother-in-law violence against daughters-in-law in India. Women’s Studies International Forum, 34(5), 420–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gazzaniga, M. (1970). The bisected brain. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  17. Gergen, Kenneth J. (1991). The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Gergen, K. (2009). Relational being. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hall, J. A., Johnson, R. M., & Ross, E. M. (2019). Where does the time go? An experimental test of what social media displaces and displaced activities’ associations with affective well-being and quality of day. New Media & Society, 21(3), 674–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hermans, H. J. M. (2014). Self as a society of I-positions: A dialogical approach to counseling. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 53(2), 134–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co.Google Scholar
  22. Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Post-contemporary interventions. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Jennings, T. (1990). “Us colored women had to go through a plenty”: Sexual exploitation of African-American slave women. Journal of Women’s History, 1(3), 45–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jorgensen, N. (2013) Pics and it didn’t happen. “The New Inquiry” February 7, 2013. Retrieved from
  25. Kanwisher, N., McDermott, J., & Chun, M. M. (1997). The fusiform face area: A module in the human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception. Journal of Neuroscience, 17(11), 4302–4311.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. LaCapra, D. (2007). Lanzmann’s Shoah: “Here there is no why”. In S. Liebman (Ed.), Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lacan, J. (1977). Ecrits. (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  28. Lanzmann, C. (1985). Shoah. Les Films Aleph. Paris: Why Not Productions.Google Scholar
  29. Lettieri, R. (2005). The ego revisited. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 22(3), 370–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levine, R. V. (2017). Stranger in the mirror: The scientific search for self. Fresno, CA: The Press, California State University, Fresno.Google Scholar
  31. Makari, G. (2015). Soul machine: The invention of the modern mind. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  32. Netting, N. S. (2010). Marital ideoscapes in 21st-century India: Creative combinations of love and responsibility. Journal of Family Issues, 31(6), 707–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Orbell, J., Zeng, L., & Mulford, M. (1996). Individual experience and the fragmentation of societies. American Sociological Review, 61(6), 1018–1032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Richardson, F. C., Rogers, A., & McCarroll, J. (1998). Toward a dialogical self. American Behavioral Scientist, 41(4), 496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roland, A. (1988). In search of self in India and Japan: Toward a cross-cultural psychology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sacks, O. (2010) Face-blind. The New Yorker. August 30, 36–40.Google Scholar
  37. Sergent, J., Ohta, S., & MacDonald, B. (1992). Functional neuroanatomy of face and object processing. A positron emission tomography study. Brain, 115(1), 15–36.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Skolnick, N. J. (1998). The good, the bad, and the ambivalent: Fairbairn’s difficulty locating the good object in the endopsychic structure. In N. J. Skolnick & D. Scharff (Eds.), Fairbairn, then and now. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Stile, J. (2012). The evolution of online identity. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  40. Sullivan, H. S. (1950). The illusion of personal individuality. Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes, 13, 317–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  42. Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Decreases in psychological well-being among American adolescents after 2012 and links to screen time during the rise of smartphone technology. Emotion, 18(6), 765–780.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Winnicott, D. W. (1960/1965). Ego distortion in terms of true and false self. In M. Masud Khan (ed.) The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  44. World Bank. (2019). World development report 2019: The changing nature of work. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  45. Zhao, S. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1816–1830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© National Academy of Psychology (NAOP) India 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human StudiesAmbedkar University of DelhiDelhiIndia
  2. 2.Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and ResearchNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations