Performing Personas

We have just had a week on Twitter of adding a purple hue to our avis in order to support an anti-bullying campaign: I noticed that many commented that their timelines had turned purple. Many also used this as an opportunity to change their avis. I was one of them.  I thought this is again an expression of personas.

So how do we perform our personas? Our social media personas live in floating worlds and have nomadic qualities away from our routine everyday selves, or do they? I googled some key words and found that of course the marketers already have strategies and are probably conducting training session about social media personas as I write this. After wading through several pages of marketing strategies I came across a post by Johnny B. Truant. In this post he talks about not merely adopting a nom de plume, but also becoming two people residing in one body.  The process he describes is very similar to how an actor approaches a character role.

Which brings me back to the “not not me” so cogently defined by Schechner. And Lacan would say, that no matter how hard we try to hide, we shall always reveal ourselves though our writing even through the characters we create. So really it is impossible to be anyone other than ourselves, even if we conceal certain mundane parts in the realm of Twitter and its colliding possible worlds. I look through the list of people I follow. They are all personas. The differences lie in how much of their everyday concrete material selves they wish to reveal.  Yet at the same,  their personas are also a substantial facet of their everyday selves. I feel that the term is slippery. As soon as I try to pin it down it wriggles in a new direction. How much do we know of our followers and those we follow? There are distinctions to be made, that is for sure. The  timeline is in the public sphere; then there are DMs, which are sometimes the sites of revelations, the place where we go to be private, almost like a corner in a crowded room. This is the place where we feel we can let our masks slip to reveal yet more personas.


11 thoughts on “Performing Personas

  1. This is such a compelling question to me. And I don’t know that it arrived with social media. I think it has always been there in the face we put on for the mortgage man and the sternness we affect when we put down our foot with a child. But the difference now is that we are not compelled by outside pressures to wear these masks, we build them up around us like an act of creation, a piece of personal theatre. We write new narratives. And like all those things – creations, plays, narratives – of course the author lies embedded in them. Sometimes very much there, sometimes almost slumbering and inert, but always there. The hand of the creator can be seen in all things, if one cares to look hard enough.

  2. Twitter and social media mean, I think, quite a different thing to ‘our’ generation than to the generation coming up who have always had access to these fast open social networks. The vast majority of people on my timeline grew up with the fledgeling internet, or even before, and these new media are just that – _new_ ways of interacting and social communication. For us, choosing ‘who to be’ and what to reveal is, I believe, a much more studied activity.

    Younger people, for whom these media are as much a part of growing up as the telephone or television was for us are, I believe, as a whole less guarded; their personas less divided between online and offline life, simply because the two are more integrated. I don’t by any means think that’s unique to the younger generation, just more common.

    Really fascinating stuff to think about though, having seen early chat in the 80’s. and usenet, and the age of bulletin boards. Each these media have created new venues for self expression and identification on-line. One wonders what’s next.

  3. There was a time where my twitter/online persona was a ‘different’ person that the one I lived my day to day life as. But that was because the person people interacted with in my real life was a construct, something made by force of expectation and emotions and a marriage that I won’t delve into here.
    The persona I reveal on twitter is more ‘me’ than that person was. But, it’s also a more candid, distilled, less shy persona that my reality is. I believe, and hope my friends can back me up here, that who I am online is remarkably close to who I am in reality. The only difference is the name, and, perhaps, a healthy dose of caution.

  4. Public time-line, DM, Gchat, Skype: these are all relatively new arenas, but in which we essentially still play ourselves. The availability of new playgrounds and meeting places has not changed changed us one iota. It has simply provided new opportunities to display various aspects of our personalities that were already there but that, previously, we did not always find places that we deemed comfortable or suitable in which to expose them.

    We all behave differently in different situations: at home, in the pub, at work, dinner party, on the ‘phone. The new electronically realized settings are merely additions to this list.

    We are still ourselves: always.

  5. Ha! I can’t believe I’m coming up under searches for “online personality pseudonyms” or something. Time to dominate the niche! 🙂

  6. Very interesting topic. I think our essence is displayed in spite of any masks we may self impose.

    I’ve read some of your past posts and really enjoy your poetry.

  7. Excellent post. I like to think my twitter persona is me, but it is impossible to fully squeeze oneself into 140 characters, yet as you say, we are both personas and our true selves in twitter-land.

  8. Like poemplaze, I hope my persona is fairly true to me. I’m conscious, though, that the time afforded by being able to think out and edit a reply makes it very different from an oral conversation. I’m possibly duller in real life because of this. It’s one of those ‘I wish I’d thought to say that’ things. On twitter, you have the time to think before replying. I think this makes a difference.

  9. There’s a popular distinction between social media and “real life.” I understand it, but I don’t care for it. It’s dense with implications. It suggests that our selves, relationships, and activities in social media are somehow unreal or false. But also—and this may be worse—it suggests that our selves, relationships, and activities in “real life” are…well, real. The problem in this distinction becomes clear when we talk about personas. Personas are not characters or masks, things I pretend to be or hide behind. They are the stories I tell about myself in order to present myself to the world. There’s no other way. And it makes no difference whether that’s the world of social media or the “real” world; the only way I can present myself to the world, and the only access the world has to *me*, my *self*, is through these personas. I may create only one, consistent and integrated and whole; multiple personas may shade into one another; they may be so distinct that I appear to be more than one person; you may think I deceive you with a “secret self,” or I may intend to do that; I may deceive myself by trying to live out a story that doesn’t “work” for me; and so on. But just as every good story is ultimately true—or rather, whether it’s “true” or not doesn’t matter—our personas can never be false, can never hide anything, even if we’re trying to hide: They always and only reveal.

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