I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday when something she said resonated with me. Not necessarily because of what she said, but the significance of the words she used.
We were discussing Facebook, and she actually made the distinction to refer to her Facebook profile as her “Facebook name.” As soon as she said it, I obviously knew exactly what she meant, but it stuck with me. Never before had I heard somebody actually say those two words together, but yet it dawned on me at that moment that we live in an age where people need to separate their real life identity and their Facebook identity, and by virtue of that, must refer to them separately.
Why this happens is not what I’m questioning. The friend is a teacher, and therefore, it makes perfect sense why she’d prefer to keep her profile untraceable to potential students and colleagues. Normally, people will do this by using their middle name instead of their last name. Middle names are not usually disclosed unless people tell you what there’s is. Or if you’re an asshole like Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
Now I know this doesn’t necessarily mean that all teachers — or any one who changes their Facebook name — have incriminating photos or material they wish to hide, but it stands to reason that when you work in a public institution, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
That being said, it still made me think about the different ways we have now to present ourselves. From the dawn of time until about eight years ago, we had one way and one way only — our behavior. How we interacted with others in public was the only way to give others an impression of yourself. The only other way would be through hearsay. Because I imagine that even in the stone age, there were still pansies who talked about others behind their back. They just did it in grunt form.
So there’s the old-fashioned “public portrayal,” and then there’s the Facebook portrayal. The one thing that surprised me the most about Facebook’s emergence is how differently people acted in these two separate contexts. Someone who always came across as level-headed and lively may act woebegone and melancholy on Facebook.
In essence, it’s a split-personality. Not in the sense as a mental disorder, but, by definition, it’s still presenting two different personality types.
But then I thought about it some more and I realized that there is a third way in which people portray themselves to others — texting. I honestly think that this method is the purest of them all.
In public, people filter themselves in an effort to appear presentable to others.
On Facebook, because of the safety net of being behind a computer screen — and because of the anonymity of posting statuses directed towards nobody in particular — some people say stuff that they’d never be bold enough to say otherwise.
But with texting, you’re only talking to your friends, and you don’t just give a shit. You’re likely not even thinking about what you say and just speaking naturally. Therefore, it’s the most pure.
After this analysis, it’s fair to ask — what is the middle ground? Where is the real person in all of this?
Well here’s what I’ve concluded: you should strive so that there doesn’t need to be a middle ground. And what do I mean by that? I mean that people should aim to act as consistently as possible in all three mediums.
I’m not saying that we have to all be saintly. Just be consistent. If you’re a douchebag, then be a douchebag in all three ways. If you’re a racist, then by golly, be offensive through phone, computer and to people’s face! That way, at least I’ll know who you are.
This has actually become one of my goals in life. I want people to know who I am, and what I am all about, regardless of where and how they converse with me. And that can only be accomplished by displaying consistency, and acting the same in all contexts.
And I’m not saying it’s easy. Sometimes we feel compelled to lament on Facebook. It happens. And sometimes we just don’t feel like having a text conversation and will ignore somebody.
But, that being said, I think it’s still a pretty noble goal to strive for. Because if there’s anything in life that we should want to be, it’s authentic. Even if you don’t grow to be as successful as you wished or be, or as popular as you wanted, at least the people you did associate with can say that they knew exactly who you were.
It’s like the title track on The Who’s 1978 album, “Who Are You?”, sung by Pete Townsend. I don’t know any other lyrics to the song besides that, and I’m sure that’s not the message the band was trying to get across at all, but let’s just roll with that.
The irony here, of course, is that I actually have a fourth platform in which to express myself, and that is this blog. And if you compare my real life self to my blog self, well I’m more bipolar than Amanda Bynes.
*Googles Amanda Bynes*
Okay, let’s not go that far.