The first record of this beaten-to-death phrase appeared in Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's treatise on the Physiology of Taste in 1826, where he wrote (in sexy French), "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]."
I've heard various twists. "You are what you read" "Show me your friends and I'll show you who you are." "Don't eat that Matt, that's disgusting." For today's blog, let's broaden the definition of "eat" as far as it will stretch.
"You are what you consume." Which is more or less true. Yes, you can believe you have a soul, that there is a unique bit of you that never changes. But it's pretty undeniable that your upbringing - the combination of what you've seen/heard/experienced - shapes who you are.
Which makes me wonder who I'm becoming. My twitter feed draws from comedians, news sources, friends, family, industry pros, companies; I receive about 40 tweets a minute (and I'm only following 541 feeds). I'm reading newspapers from around the world, watching "tv stations" (that term is so outdated) streamed from nearly every continent (still waiting for PenguinTV... oh no wait, it exists). I played an online game from a company in New Zealand last night. The list goes on.
And I feel anxious that I'm not consuming enough media. In the morning when I wake up, the second thing I reach for (right after whacking my long suffering alarm clock) is my iPod touch, to catch up on the news. The radio is seldom off in my house - silence now makes me twitchy.
It's an anxiety that I think ties back to, "You are what you consume." With individual messages losing any sort of authoritative standing as they get swallowed by the deluge. keeping up-to-speed on what's happening now seems to like the best chance to becoming a complete person. Identity now lies on the Cutting Edge of the Information Age. Which makes me wonder:
- As we increasingly share the same media streams with the rest of the world, is humanity becoming homogenous?
- How can I become a complete person when I can't possibly keep up with all the media?
- Are we losing or gaining by consuming the same information?
Thanks to my classmate Chantal Verrier, who told me that the title to Anthelme's treatise "Meditations de Gastronomie" translates to "Meditations on Transcending Gastronomy." I find that comforting for some reason...