April 26, 2018.
The Truth of The Digital Persona
The idea of 'ego' and the determination of self-identity is a reflexive process. The world and our experiences exert its influence upon us just as we seek to influence it. Traditionally, social identity is considered to be a wholly deterministic concept, entrenched in the realm of the physical. This approach has, however, been challenged by the rise of neo-liberal thought where individual choices have attained greater significance in the determination of the self.
The onset of digital communication enabled the individual, for the first time, to exist outside the constraints of his physical self, free to explore and experiment with his/her identity. This sociological revolution is best illustrated in the words of Arthur Ashe who remarks that his potential ‘is more that can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity’. The anonymity of the internet offered the individual refuge from societal judgement and expectations. The virtual world provided the user a platform where he/she could exist as an imagined ideal being. Social media, provided the world the means to communicate with individuals over vast distances instantly. It is thus not unreasonable to state that such a social change has made a significant impact upon traditional concepts of identity formation.
The purpose of this essay is to examine the validity of the statement ‘As we have full creative and editorial control of our social media profiles’, these represent the truest version of the self with regard to Goffman theoretical framework and consider the impact of digital communications on human interactionism.
In his aptly titled work, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, sociologist Erving Goffman analyses human identity construction and interactionism through the generous use of dramaturgical metaphors [Goffman, The Presentation of Self]. Published in 1959, just before the sociological revolution of the 1960's, Goffman's analysis of human behaviour nonetheless remains relevant in the digital age. The cornerstone of Goffman's study of human behaviour is the idea of the 'performance'. Goffman postulates that individual interactions are performances; carefully designed to 'project' a specific image to the second party, hoping to establish a favourable impression. Goffman opines that all human interactions are merely performances or acts - made by actors and delivered to an audience. The sociologist's illustrations of human behaviour contrast two distinct forms of interaction; termed as front stage and back stage behaviour. An actor, while in 'front stage', is acutely conscious of being observed by an audience and is mindful of the social conventions and norms which might impact the reception of his performance [Goffman, The Presentation of Self]. The actor realises that the failure of his act would result in a loss of face [Goffman, On face-work] and is, therefore, hyper-aware of his actions. The contrast between...