Online Personas

Presentation of Self in Everyday Life for ENGL108D

As part of courses this term, I have a few courses for which I’m doing readings each week. For English-108D, this week we read Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment (Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs). Both pieces touch on the topic of people not being entirely themselves depending on varying social contexts, whether it’s online dating, or approaching members of a tightly knit social circle.

That’s not me

Scumbag Steve (aka not me)

This is a great example of a picture that is not me.

The internet and social media have provided a diverse set of platforms for people to show off who they are, and things that they do. Each platform embeds within it an implicit set of rules of engagement between participants, or in the words of Marshall McLuhan: "the medium is the message".

For the various differing personas that each person erects -- on the vast number of social media accounts and websites that they are a member of -- Ellison posed the question of exactly how similar they would be to the person's actual self (specifically on dating sites). As someone with a multitude of accounts across the web (not all of which are listed here), I can say with very little thought that none of those accounts are a perfect representation of my actual self.

These Personas are Me

As discussed in my prior English-108D work (Life on the Internet), I’ve devoted a non-zero amount of time thinking about my personas (at least the digital ones). Each digital persona has attached to it a balance of privacy and utility, allowing me to carefully use websites that I’d rather not admit to having accounts on, and still protecting my identity to some satisfactory degree. Having many of these accounts, coupled with meeting people on them, leads to an interesting game of identity management, where I invite people to view my other (more public?) personas based on the perceived trust and relationship with this new person. To use the example of this site: it houses my professional persona, with little about my personal life. The site directs people to slightly more private accounts that I have (Facebook, Google+), that contain a more private persona that I can act as gatekeeper for: disallowing people who are insufficiently well known to me. I give away links to this site in the same way a dandelion throws seeds to the wind: hoping that people are interested in who I am, and what sorts of interesting things we could potentially do together.

Thoughts on a My Actual Self

In an attempt to take better care of myself, I have been journaling and collecting other data about myself. Having been writing somewhat consistently in a journal for around four years, it is an exercise of self discovery to reread old journal entries and attempt to line up event time lines with entries.

Inspired by the article Codex Vitae by Buster Benson, I also attempt to keep a record of my beliefs, thoughts, and fears as they change over time. Ideally helping track information about my actual self for some time later when I wonder what sorts of things I used to believe.

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