Who are you?
Have fun out there.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Who Am I?
This is a question that was hard enough before the tools of modern technology came into play. But the question, as complicated as it has gotten, is still one with which we all must grapple. We like to think that we are always the same person, no matter what goes on around us, where we are, what we are doing or in spite of outside influencers. But the fact is, we rarely are the same person. We are many people. And who we are is different in the various situations in which we find our selves.
It used to be people would hitchhike around the country to try to discover their true identity. And that was just the one identity they were searching for. Now it seems we have more than one identity to solve. Tajfel and Turner, who were pioneers in social identity theory, believed that “a person has not one, ‘personal self’, but rather several selves that correspond to widening circles of group membership.” How many people are we?
OK, we are just the one person, but we do construct multiple identities that suit our immediate needs or desires given a certain set of circumstances. There are just more and different circumstances now that have and are being created with the new technologies. To complicate things more, this identity is a construction that is not solely of our own creation Thurlow (05) says that our social identity is a construction “based on what others think about who we are, and the stories they tell about us, either face to face or to other people.”
So our identity is something we construct with the help (wanted or not) of others around us, who we’ve had first or second person interaction with. Wow it hard enough to figure out who we are, now we have to worry about what everyone in our community thinks of us? Why do we bother in the first place, constructing this identity? Well again referring to Thurlow, (05) he states that “it is the way we make sense out of the chaos or variety of our lives.” Ok I can agree with that, the mind needs to define things before it can hope to operate them. Before we can go out into the outer unknown, be it a CMC or F2F variety, we need to be able to have an understanding of ourselves. Not a complete understanding but a working model, let’s call it. With out this working model we couldn’t be sure how to act, communicate, or respond to outside forces. With this identity work in progress we can bring a little understanding and order out of the great chaos this is our life full of the tools of the new technologies.
One way that we figure out who we are, or want to be, is by figuring out who or what we are not. That is a little easier and again involves the help of others. This time a model of things we don’t want to become. I meet someone who is annoying and I say to myself, “Ok, I never want to be that person.” And then I take steps to make sure I and others don’t put me in that same category.
Now in my on-line gaming identity, I can’t afford to be soft or too obnoxious. I see others that are and that they are shunned. So I make sure I tweek my gaming social identity to not be that guy. On my Facebook, I want to be the more open guy that is funny and accepting. (Much of who I think I am in any F2F communications.) But in my on-line communities of VW enthusiasts, I see my identity as one who is wise, knowing all things VW and never getting taken advantage of when trading or buying 40 year old car parts. My F2F identity at home is still the odd man out, middle child who is creative and sensitive. (Crazy I know.)
So now we have our identity for a given community or situation constructed, are we done? Unfortunately or fortunately, no. Depending on how happy you are with your identity, this can be a good thing or an exhausting thing. Identity construction, like life, is a journey and not a destination. It is an ongoing process that will last far past our earthly lives. It is a dynamic thing that has a life of its own. People talk about us even after we are dead. I always am intrigued at funerals how perfect everyone was. How loving and caring. So your identity is still constructed by those around you, long after you are gone. Wow, this is exhausting.
So who am I? It depends on the more complex situations I find myself in as part of this moving world of new technologies, communities and tools. What I do know is that I have a say in who I portray myself as, but not an absolute say of who my social identity becomes. I also know that I can reinvent my self as I introduce myself to new communities. You are who you say you are until someone tweets otherwise.
Have fun out there.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly, New York: Knopf.
Thurlow, C. (2005). Computer Mediated Communication, London: Sage.
Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of inter-group behavior. In S. Worchel and L. W. Austin (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chigago: Nelson-Hall
Posted by The David Yost at 9:09 PM