I don’t like your persona!

I once had a friend who stopped talking to me in our college years.  He and I were good friends who had grown apart.  At one point in time we were spending nearly everyday together, giggling and joking, and then it just fizzled until we were hardly speaking to each other.  When I tried to talk to him, he shied away.  What had gone wrong?

This went on for many many months and finally I asked him directly. This was in college, remember, when I was less accepting of the fact that sometimes friends drift apart.  Since then, enough friends have drifted away that I have sadly come to tolerate that happening.  (I wonder if I should fight more to keep my friends?  That’s a tricky proposition).  “Why, Alex,” I asked, “Don’t you like me anymore?”  (names have been changed)
He looked down at the ground.  “I don’t like who you are anymore.”

It was a blow but I managed to ask what he meant.

“I don’t like how you act online.”  This was back in the days before instant messenger, and blogs.  This was when we were online at the UNIX command prompt and chatting on some very hacked up irc/icb type forum.  Kind of like group chat with a very large membership.

“But,” I responded. “Do you know that who I am online isn’t who I am in real life?”

He hadn’t quite understood that, I guess.  Or realized that possibility.  Or realized my view of the internet as a playground for only one facet of my personality.  I have a private side, that AIN’T going to be out there.

These days I’ve gotten my fair share of people who find my online persona distasteful–more of a problem on the blog with my real name on it.  If the name is real, the person has to be real, too?  And there’s a real person to attack, right?  If I post a sexy picture of myself, that makes me a whore, right?  (NOT).  And here?  Because I don’t post my real name, does that make me an intensely private person?  I don’t think so, either.

The idea of a persona is fascinating.  What do we keep in our persona?  What do we leave out?  How do we use it on the internet?  How do we use it as we “market” ourselves in the world?  Or when we write?  Even when we write memoir, is that really US on the page?  No.  That’s a different character, it’s a REPRESENTATION of the author.

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4 Comments

Filed under Memories

4 responses to “I don’t like your persona!

  1. This is really really really interesting. I feel like my blog is pretty much me. I mean, not ALL of me, but it’s not NOT me. I am fascinated by the idea of internet as playground for one facet of a personality. I recently saw some stuff that my teenager wrote online, and got alarmed, and she basically said what you said, that a lot of the stuff she writes is “not her.” Hm. The idea of a persona IS fascinating.

  2. Well, aren’t we all somewhat of a representation of ourselves, particularly on our blogs? What do we choose to write, and what do we choose to leave off the page?

    I admire those that can represent the most vulnerable of their selves, because that is something i struggle with, both online and in real life.

    I often say “I am so much more likable on my blog.” So that implies a persona right there, even though all that here is TRUE…it’s just that there is a lot unsaid, too.

  3. Huh, I never thought about that.

    Once I played in this band, and I posted one night, one very frustrated night, about how hard it was to be away playing gigs when I wanted to be doing other things. I happened to mention that the other guys in the band were talking about going out for a beer, and I wasn’t up for it.

    One of the guys was married and his wife had very recently delivered a baby, and there was a big fight in their house about his going out and drinking when (a) he was away so early in the baby’s life, and (b) he supposedly was spending money on beer when he should be saving for the move home.

    It was a rather nasty argument we got into, not just on my site but also in the office we shared. I couldn’t understand some of it. I mean, frankly, *I* agreed with his wife that it was weird to be out gigging with his rock band when his kid had been born not long before. It was weird to me that he didn’t want to go directly home and see his baby, who was living the first days of its life outside the womb then. All I really wanted to respond to his wife, who commented on my blog, was that if she questioned his priorities, she should talk to him, but I did a big song and dance about how what this meant was how committed he was to rock music and the band specifically, and that I didn’t feel the same commitment and didn’t feel I had any obligation to do so, either.

    Then he took a strip out of me, lecturing me on assumptions — telling me he hadn’t gone for beer, but instead gone and visited a mutual friend whom it turned out was having surgery the next day. Yeah, well, when I left it sounded pretty clear, pretty obvious that they’d be getting hammered. For them to discuss it so decidedly, so energetically, and then to get mad that I’d simply assumed they’d followed through with their plans… it was weird. It felt as if he was saying., “I wouldn’t have done that!” rather than, “It just so happens I didn’t do that.” Which, to me, felt dishonest. It felt dishonest the way it felt dishonest when he told his wife he would quit smoking when she was pregnant, and stay off it thereafter, and then for months thereafter he kept smoking whenever she wasn’t around.

    Personas are a funny thing. They’re… weird. I sort-of get it because, as a foreigner over in Korea, and as a teacher on top of it, I’m used to putting on situation-specific personae. “Now I’m a professor!” or “No, I can’t understand what you’re saying to me at all,” or “Don’t mess with me.”

    There are things I keep to myself, online, but I don’t think of it so much as suppressing something. I don’t think that what’s on my site isn’t me. I don’t even feel like theres a *lot* unsaid.

    Regarding Susan’s comment — what else is your kid going to say? More than likely, what your kid writes is her, is really truly her, some part of her I mean. Just as the persona she presents to you is just a part of her. I frankly think parents reading their kids’ blogging should expect to see some unexpected, surprising, and perhaps discomfiting information there. But that webspace is the one place that is your kid’s alone, and she has a right to be who she is, while there.

    Personae are usually part of a person. Else why would the person assume a particular set of interests and attitudes?

    But unfortunately, all too many people fail to understand that personae are aspects of people, not the whole person and certainly not something useful in defining other people. In life, there’s always someone out to put others in a little wooden definition box.

  4. “But unfortunately, all too many people fail to understand that personae are aspects of people, not the whole person and certainly not something useful in defining other people. In life, there’s always someone out to put others in a little wooden definition box.”

    Yes, I am on board with that statement!

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