The Many Hats
August 4, 2011
My son is very much into hats right now. Hats, shoes and gloves to be exact. Who wears hats, shoes, and gloves? Baseball players. That is why his favorite word right now is Baseball!
I am the last person on the face of the planet who should be teaching my son, or anyone for that matter, how to catch a ball. Not that I don’t enjoy it, I’m just not qualified for the position. As someone who was always picked last for teams in gym class, I have a real insecurity when it comes to anything athletic. Regardless of my insecurities though, the kid wants to play baseball. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it, he loves it. So I put on my “Mommy Hat” and I do it.
It got me thinking about the many hats we wear as human beings and how interesting it is that on social networking sites, like Facebook, we must integrate all those hats into one collective identity. My friend, Anna, reminded me of Erving Goffman in her blog. In his excruciatingly boring book, “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life“……. zzz… Oh, sorry, I fell asleep just remembering the book. *Slap myself in the face and shake it off* Goffman, a sociologist, claimed all the world’s a stage and all the men and women, merely players. No, that was Shakespeare. But, Goffman had a similar theory in that defining our “self” was dependent on what we are doing and who we are talking to, therefore everything in life is a performance. (Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the theory sounds interesting and read the book. I guarantee you will fall asleep reading it.)
I agree whole heartedly with Goffman on that. I am a very different person depending on the situation, context, and how much sleep I’ve gotten recently. Imagine for a moment you meet me, by chance, at the playground. You are meeting Mommy Emily. Now, Mommy Emily is very different from Wife Emily who is nothing like Daughter Emily or Sister Emily. And, if Sleepy Emily is around, run the other way! But when you combine them all into one collective Emily, who is she?
Some people are really good at picking one persona and sticking with it in most parts of their lives, then only letting a few who they are close to see other aspects of their identity. I’m not one of those people. I’ve never been one of those people. I can have a good time with lots of different groups of people and to limit my Self to only one group or one identity isn’t for me.
It became evident to me while I was organizing my music library yesterday. I have such a wide variety of music. Some days I feel like listening to classical music, somedays I feel like listening to punkrock. Would I ever label myself as a punk rocker? No. Would I call myself a snooty intellectual who only listens to classical music? No. I enjoy most generes of music and the thought of limiting myself to only one seems ridiculous. But people do it.
Our identities are really no different. Sometimes we are happy. Sometimes we are pissed. Sometimes we are sad. Sometimes we want to go out and have a good time. Sometimes we just want to stay in and watch a movie. Yet, there is a common misconception that if you only act a certain way in front of a certain group of people, you must be “fake.” People act as though the only way to be “real” is to constantly be portraying the same persona. I can tell you this, when I see people (online) posting only overly happy and upbeat statuses, all of the time, I can’t help but think they are only trying to convince themselves that they are happy and upbeat or that they just LOVE their boyfriend so dang much. It seems to me that those are the same people, given a couple weeks, who will be posting about how much they hate their lives and about their broken hearts (or in fewer words, “fml”).
When we mix our different personas into the world of social networking, how can we manage our many different identities? I’ve been playing around with Google+ and it seems to me that Google has come up with that answer by allowing you to form “circles.” When you create a post, you can choose which of your circles get to see it. So then you could have a Mommy Circle, a Friend Circle, a Professional Circle, etc. and be able to effectively manage your many hats.
I don’t know that I will ever be able to answer the question of who Emily is, with no hat. I personally don’t think there is an answer to that question. The dess-up box inside me is full of many wonderful, colorful, fun hats. I don’t plan on getting rid of them anytime soon.