• [Feminine Façades & False Faces]

    I was listening to my ’50 Least Played’ list in iTunes a few weeks ago when it rotated to a Disney soundtrack song called Femininity from the 1963 movie Summer Magic. Talk about lyrics from an age with a different set of values:

    Let him do the talking
    Men adore good listeners
    Laugh, but not too loudly (Haha)
    If he should choose to tell a joke
    Be radiant, but delicate
    Memorize the rules of etiquette
    Be demure, sweet and pure
    Hide the real you

    Can you imagine the damage done to an entire generation of young women upon being advised to “hide the real you”? So you would have a private personality that you could maybe share with your close girl friends and a public personality on display to your husband and his male friends or colleagues. I know I would find it very difficult, cultural expectations and conditioning or not, to go through life projecting a fa�ade so much at odds with my inner self-image, although even I admit to tailoring my self-expression somewhat for the audience at hand. Still, spending a large portion of your life suppressing your natural self sounds like the sure road to psychotherapy and confusion, because you feel that your ‘true self’ is not worthwhile or valued.

    However, with the exception of the actual advice, maybe life isn’t so much different these days, especially in our virtual world. The famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, pithily captures the very heart of the false face syndrome, even at such a young stage in the growth of the Internet. From my years of being involved in Internet Relay Chat multi-player games, I have had a fair bit of exposure to people and their personas on the Internet. Based on my anecdotal evidence, I would say that most people, at least to a small degree, portray themselves differently on the Internet than in so-called ‘real life’.
    Part of the perceived difference between the real and the virtual persona is due to the time flow of the medium. When you are text chatting with somebody, you have the opportunity to mull over your response. Even if it’s a real-time chat, you still have that gap between thinking something, typing it, and pressing return to send it, which allows you re-think or reformulate your contributions. This time flow gap is even larger if you are interacting with others via e-mail, mailing lists, or discussion forums. Even if you are not consciously amending the projection of yourself, you are at least able to ensure what you display reflects the best that you can be, an idealized or stylized version of yourself.
    For example, I do most of my current teaching online to distance educatiion students at the Open University. Even though I am notorious for my short temper and impatience, my students never “see” that aspect of me. No matter what the provocation, I can always keep my cool, precisely because there is a gap between my physical reaction and my virtual reaction. In this particular case, I am not deceiving anybody in a harmful way; I am, in fact, improving their learning experience.
    What about those who do feel the need to hide their true selves, even on the Internet where they are already physically distanced from other people? They hide their bodies. They hide the darker sides of themselves beneath a cheerful exterior. The truth is, most people are unhappy with who they are. We are constantly bombarded on television and magazines, particularly women, to be pretty, to be thin, to be smart, to be witty, or to be the perfect housewife. Although I suspect it is not to the same degree, men, too, do not escape this. They worry about their appearance, their performance, and their very masculinity.
    People who are, at heart, unhappy with themselves have the opportunity to revel in the freedom of the anonymous Internet. Your voice is too shrill? No problem, nobody can hear you. You’re overweight and adolescent acne still plagues you? Again, this is the Internet, and nobody has to see you. You can’t think of witty rejoinders until five minutes later? Not only do you now have more time, but you can use a search engine to look for other people’s witty statements. You have the freedom to be a sock puppet or a troll or a fake femme. While these might be fun corners of your personality to explore or to encourage, how many true emotional bonds can be built between groups of people projecting false personas?
    In the 1950s, you were encouraged to hide your true self and be someone model perfect. This is not the 1950s or 1960s anymore. Now, you have a choice. Yes, you can be anything or anyone on the Internet. Woman or man, why not choose to be you? Leave behind the false fa�ades. Value yourself. Be yourself.


    One comment on “[Feminine Façades & False Faces]”

    • Doesn’t your conclusion assume that we each have only a single “true self”? I think that when we assume different personae online, these are not necessarily “false” (though they may be), but often consist of facets of ourselves that we don’t normally express in face-to-face interaction. Why assume that there’s only one self and that, moreover, that the “right” self is the one we use in day-to-day, face-to-face dealings?
      (By the way, this is Sejarez/Binkley from #bleah/#riskybus/#acro etc… I found your blog randomly off your audioscrobbler profile!)

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