Northern Sights: A Regular Column of Inaccurate Observations and Outright Lies
Week 3 and 3/4
This year, be your best self, be the best version of yourself, be the skinny you, be the healthy you, be the fit you, be the fun you, be the spiritual you, be the adventurous you, be the you you always thought you should be, and be you being you being better.
Or at least, appear that way, market yourself, be your own brand: you are a product.
Iceland did it. Haven’t you heard? All the bankers are in jail. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is an artist, a writer, an actress. That’s why people are coming to Iceland—the world is swiping right. German photographers rent jeeps and drive around the country (About me: I love the outdoors, relaxing in nature, and blonde people). Americans complain about the prices at the Blue Lagoon (About me: I love travelling places American troops once occupied). British businessmen fill up restaurants and aggressively seek out their dirty weekend in Reykjavík (About me: I’ve got a wife, two kids, and a no-limit credit card).
The whole world has become Tinder. You don’t need anything but three good photos: a blue steel portrait, an action shot, and a picture of you with friends to prove you aren’t a troll. Couple this with a sentence to tie it all together (About me: I’m a home body who likes going out, but I’m shy until you get to know me—then I am really outgoing). It’s as if the world has become “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” but instead of hiding your portrait away in the attic, it shows up to your social engagements in your place while you stay in the attic hiding all your imperfections.
With Tinder, you can become like Iceland (the brand). You are beautiful. You are an artist, a writer, an actor. Oscar Wilde argued that all you see in a work of art is the artist. Art expresses itself, and gives a window into the subjective selection an artist makes—nothing more. The key to a perfect Tinder profile is to be your own art—nothing more—avoid complexity and depth. There needs to be an aesthetic quality that is felt by the audience. You need to create psychical distance, the aesthetic philosophy developed by Edward Bullough and championed by Johanson and Vahlne in a study of Nordic Multinationals in 1977. The key to the perfect profile is to be different, but still share all the same desires and values of everyone. Everyone wants to have an experience with someone new, but not feel like you’re too different from what they already have experienced. (About me: I’m the better version of your last date).
When you’ve created this artifice and people start swiping right, you still have to show up. You can have all the matches in the world, but if you’re less attractive, smart, or fun than your profile suggests, the only stroking you’ll receive is to your ego—your digital self is loved (About me: my best self is online).
That’s the rub. If you really want someone to love you, or for the world to understand you, you need people to see all the cracks and grime, the contents of your attic. You are more than your profile. Iceland is more than a stop-over, a weekend away, an exotic country with white people.
Quit trying to be anything. Not everything is an Icelandair advertisement, not even Iceland (About me: I’ll never be the best version of myself, but I might think you are the best version of yourself even when you don’t).
Now sit back and relax, and quit trying to sell yourself. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you.
Sometimes you are who you pretend to be. You can say something enough and it eventually becomes true. Iceland’s Supreme Court has sentenced four powerful bankers to prison. Life can mimic art.
I moved to Iceland to get away from my friends and family. I don’t hate them, but I was beginning to think they were stopping me from reaching my full potential. My friends were always showing up at my house and forcing me to have fun. My family was always concerning themselves with my welfare and life choices. I needed, much like Superman, a fortress of solitude, a place far from Canada and, preferably, warmer.
Iceland seemed to be the perfect place. I would be able, much like Superman, to study the history of my adopted ancestors—I’m not Icelandic, but I’m tall and drink like a Viking—and carve out my destiny.
This is my journal.
York Underwood is a journalist, writer and comedian from Canada. He’s currently living in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, next to a fisheries’ ice house. He’s also trying to learn Icelandic. He makes poor decisions.