Facebook Shows The Real You

[Steve’s note: The text in the picture is a little naughty. Click to embiggen.]

As my friend Misfitina recently discovered (yes, I read your LJ even if I don’t comment often), sometimes people don’t want to get to know you. Not really.

Our public personas (or other people’s interpretation of our public persona) may be very different than our private persona or our own self-conception. In Misfitina’s case, the “quiet studious vixen” is revealed as really being “a social critic and doesn’t pander to any community”. The opposite would be a surprise to me – I’ve only known the latter woman.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and the plethora of other social networking sites have huge potential to start busting up these false public personas. Suddenly our “work friends” run into our “outside work friends”. Our work persona runs smack into our outside work persona. (Substitute school, church, group, or whatever categorization you like.) It makes it difficult to manage who gets to see what public mask – and they might not like the results.

I think that’s a good thing, in the long run. The illusion of society and normalcy upheld by these false public personas is simply that – an illusion. But it’s an illusion that we tend to treat as real, no matter how harmful it may be to someone. In Stigma, the social psychologist Goffman points out that everyone is, in some way, at some point of their life, stigmatized. You’ll be too young (or old) to take care of yourself. Sick. Part of a “deviant” group of some kind, whether that’s public knowledge or not. And yet, despite the fact that all of us are stigmatized, we accept the negative value judgement of a stigma towards others.

And that’s so much bullshit.

As we become more connected and more wired, we’ll have less ability to control our public masks. We will, instead, have to be genuine and truthful about ourselves – whether we want to or not. We will see how truly screwed up we are – and that everyone else is just as screwed up as we are.

And on that day we will be a little more free.