Inauthenticity threatens both efficiency and the structures we want it to serve, and so there is no greater taboo on the Internet than performing a false identity. Because there is so much truth that cannot survive being transformed into digital proclamation, and because we are all know how vulnerable we are to being led into false causes, we enforce a mode of dealing with it that is maximally defensive, favoring productive sincerity and not experimental inauthenticity.

The growth of personal metrics in Internet advertising is only a symptom of our need to see the Internet as a proxy for seriousness and scrutable reality. The Internet crowdsources a police state of mind by making it seem like there are physical stakes for artifice, and the presumption of those stakes are used to enforce consensus norms rather than rewarding the randomness of performative imagination.

The freedom to slip in and out of different personas made possible by Vortex suggests a freedom in online behavior that is only conceivable when we limit it to the distant matter of shopping. We can play around with our identities by manipulating the algorithmic presumptions of ad servers, which dumbly follow us around the Internet filling sidebars with the same thing over and over again, in most cases uselessly promoting things we've already bought and don't need anymore.

In a similar way, most of our online social interactions chase old values and ideas we've already bought into, the more predictable they become the more authentically we seem to offer them. In another world, we'd be able to use the Internet as a tool that freed us from the trap of our own presumptions and prejudices.

Perhaps one day there'll be a form of Vortex that randomly tags a person's social networks with random thoughts and assertions, turning social networks into places where we'd practice trying to rationalize all the strange things in the world that we hadn't known could be true. 

Michael Thomsen is's tech columnist. He has written for Slate, The Atlantic, The New Inquiry, n+1, Billboard, and is author of Levitate the Primate: Handjobs, Internet Dating, and Other Issues for Men. He tweets often at @mike_thomsen.

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