I want to write you to tell you just how thrilled I was to see that “You” had been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2006. Finally, you get the recognition you deserve. I mean, look around. You are everywhere in pop culture. You’re on book covers. In fact, every self-help book seems to talk about you. There’s “YOU on a Diet” and “YOU: The Owner’s Manual: An Insider’s Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger.” You’re in songs; every love song seems to be about you. And the ladies can’t seem to get enough: Gwen Stefani sings that she wants to be “your favorite girl” and she’s “waiting for you to come save” her, while Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls moansings that she’s “tellin’ you to loosen up [her] buttons/But you keep frontin’.” Talk show hosts look right into the camera and talk to You; Tyra Banks even tells you to “kiss her fat ass!”
And it’s not just celebrities talking about you. The whole Internet revolution seems to be about You. People look for the perfect “you” on dating sites. People get their postcards to You published on http://www.postsecret.com. You’re even in the name of YouTube. When Time named You “Person of the Year” they did it for a reason. They asked themselves who does all the little things that make the virtual world of the Internet full of amazing, interesting stuff. They asked, “Who has that time and that energy and that passion? The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.”
Not everybody’s singing your praises, of course. Beyonce warns “Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” Amy Winehouse chastises you, saying you “should be stronger” than her. Maybe you’re not as great as you seem. Some ask, what’s the big deal? You’re everywhere, you’re in everything, but what’s the point in talking about you? Well, that’s like saying “Air? What’s the big deal?” We may not notice it when it’s there, but we’d be gasping without it. Yes, You, you make life on Pop Culture Planet possible. You’re not perfect, maybe you’re overrated, but you deserve to be noticed, to be addressed.
The thing is, despite all we seem to talk about You, you remain quite mysterious. If a song mentions you, people always like to rush and guess who you really are, to attach a proper name to yours. Because of your popularity, some people will even claim to be You. But you remain ambiguous. Roman Jakobson has called You a “shifter,” one of an exclusive club that includes your good friends He, She, It, and others that all take on various masks. You shapeshifter, You. You leave us to fill in the details, to imagine you fully.
I have to wonder, do You exist at all? When a singer sings about You or a talk show host talks to You, it’s like they’re talking to someone in the room who just isn’t there. It’s like I see someone approaching who calls out, “Hey!” I think he’s calling to me at first, but realize his eyes are looking past me. I turn around, but there’s no one there. Confused, I turn back, thinking “surely he’s not talking to me.” He continues to look in my direction, but not at me exactly. I glance back, but You are gone. You’ve slipped behind a building and eluded me once again.
Nonetheless, I write to You because I know you are important. If nothing else, people may read this letter and think about You a litte more and appreciate all the things you signify to us.