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The Real Me

Belle Waring asks "Do you think blogs reveal a person's true personality?" Not to get too existential about it, but I think this is a somewhat naive question. We all present ourselves in a variety of ways in a variety of contexts, both in writing (be it on the web or, when applicable, in print) and face-to-face. I'm not sure it makes sense to say that any o those modes of presentation are our "true" selves. It seems to me that Duncan Black could probably play Atrios in real life if he wanted to, but that's not what he was doing on the occassions when I saw the physical him, and I suspect his disinclination to talk to the hordes of reporters around derives from a disinclination to either play that character or to break character in public. The virtual Matthew Yglesias "knows" (i.e., is read by) many more people than the "real" Matthew Yglesias knows so, in a sense, he's more real than the "real" me. In another sense that's bunk and the guy you're reading now is just some words on a screen and the other me is a flesh-and-blood person. But, of course, I can and do adopt various guises in life according to who I'm talking to and why.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

You are really Sidney Blumenthal, right? We thought it was Atrios, but that was just to fool us.

"But, of course, I can and do adopt various guises in life according to who I'm talking to and why."

Part of the fun of reading is watching a writer's existential attempt to reveal and conceal himself in his work, simultaneously and not completely conciously. And only partially successfully. Are you paranoid about this yet? If I knew a thing about modern litcrit, I might say something interesting here.

Just cause this is your blog and stuff doesn't mean this is about you, you know.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 31, 2004 6:48:21 PM

A post only a philosophy major would write

Posted by: Matt Taylor | Jul 31, 2004 7:02:19 PM

"I can and do adopt various guises in life according to who I'm talking to and why"

Sounds like one of those liberal flip-floppers without moral fiber, who just adopt whatever their listeners want to hear.

/snark
/kidding

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 31, 2004 8:24:42 PM

This goes back a lot further than just blogs, it has to do with how people tend to act on the internet.

For some people, the anonyminity allows them to act in ways that are decidely anti-social. They basically are just trying to annoy people. The thing is, usually IRL, these people are not the nicest people. Generally speakinging a jerk is a jerk.

For most people however, they tend to act pretty much the same way they act in real life. More-so, it gets past physical stereotypes, so people tend to be a bit friendlier and a bit warmer.

Psudonyms are kind of a different story. When someone uses a psudonymn, they're not trying to act like they're someone else, usually it's a matter of convience/security. Myself, the reason I don't use my given name for blogs is 2 reasons. #1. I'm an avid gamer, and I use this name for gaming. If a gamer were to recongize my name, it's the same person. That's important to me. #2. My first name is the same as one of the "top" bloggers. (Think "very fast"). And when I used to post using my name, I'd get all confused if someone was talking about me or him...

And considering the reputation the guy has...

Sorry :)

Posted by: Karmakin | Jul 31, 2004 9:28:05 PM

Oh, come now. Everyone knows the "real" MY is a brain in a vat, stored in an underground laboratory deep beneath Pasadena, CA. (How much is Wonkette getting for those "sightings," eh?)

Posted by: Andy | Jul 31, 2004 10:55:24 PM

"For most people however, they tend to act pretty much the same way they act in real life."

Most people? There's no way that this is true. If people went around the real world pontificating and haranguing each other as they do on the innernut, it would be like...well, the innernut.

"For some people, the anonyminity allows them to act in ways that are decidely anti-social. They basically are just trying to annoy people. The thing is, usually IRL, these people are not the nicest people. Generally speakinging a jerk is a jerk."

Well, I prefer to cast my own (few!) exercises in this vein more in a light of experimentation than jerkery, but, though I'll concede to being just slightly a lunatic in real life, um, I mean, IRL, I'm not anywhere near as spittish a one as sometimes interweb-wise.

Posted by: spacetoast | Jul 31, 2004 11:00:41 PM

This goes back a lot further than just blogs, it has to do with how people tend to act on the internet.

Really, this has nothing specifically to do with the internet. It's true that writing on the internet brings out some rather extreme "characters" in otherwise unflashy people, but the same basic point is true in workaday life. The Realish I am with my wife and child is different than the Realish I am when teaching an intro to philosophy course, and different still from the Realish I am with my parents, or walking alone through a mall, or whatever.

You might be tempted to say that I'm revealing (or concealing) various facets of One True Self in those situations, but only if you were attached to the idea that there's a One True Self to begin with. Much more likely, from an evolutionary, cognitive scientific, psychological, sociological, and internet-al point of view is that my self is in fact fragmented, and the One True Self is an illusion created by my brain for purely pragmatic purposes.

Posted by: Realish | Jul 31, 2004 11:14:09 PM

Part of the reason I use a pseudonym is that I wouldn't want people I know (and I'm fairly sure that people who know me read this blog) to observe that I waste so much time writing frivolous comments on an internet message board!

When I use my real name to write on some other blogs, I'm slightly more serious and less snarky...

Posted by: next big thing | Jul 31, 2004 11:24:20 PM

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040719&s=aaj071904

Posted by: BarrettBrown | Aug 1, 2004 12:47:24 AM

"that my self is in fact fragmented, and the One True Self is an illusion created by my brain for purely pragmatic purposes."

Kant,Mind,Self-Conciousness

For Realish, I guess, a brand-newish Stanford article that discusses, among other things, Kant's arguments for a "Unity of Conciousness."
Such dense and difficult stuff that I can't say that it contradicts Realish's statement, tho I suspect so.

OT though, for MY seems to be talking of a functional understanding of persona. We objectify each other, but I am not sure to what degree we objectify ourselves. I need epistemology to bring his "no free will" crusade over, telling me I don't choose what shoes I am going to wear to work, and really confuse me.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 1, 2004 1:12:34 AM

Kant,Mind,Self-Conciousness

Sorry

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 1, 2004 1:15:30 AM

"I don't choose what shoes I am going to wear to work"

There is no you.

There is only chi.


Posted by: next big thing | Aug 1, 2004 1:20:34 AM

One of my favorite books is one of those fluffy cultural studies tomes, called "No Sense of Place" by Joshua Meyrowitz of University of New Hampshire.

Luckily, I'm next to my bookshelf right now.

He talks about how we have backstage and onstage performances in every part of our lives.

"For a brief period, a revealed back region can be converted into a relatiely traditional front region performance. The less performers can control and restrict others' access to themselves, however, the more back region behavior must come to light. A normally sloppy teenager, for example, may clean his room when his aunt comes to dinner on Easter Sunday. But if Aunt Mary stays for six months, she will undoubtedly witness a different drama."
...
"Usually we give situational agendas little conscious thought unless something goes wrong: a lawyer at a divorce settlement begins to sing his favorite love songs, or a close friend begins speaking to you as if you were one of her employees."

Posted by: next big thing | Aug 1, 2004 1:28:31 AM

Quite recently, TBogg wrote about his discomfort at social gatherings (one reason among many - family, bassets, real job - he didn't take the time to go to Boston). And I thought, well, he might sit there in a corner at a party, but there's a hell of a lot going on upstairs.
I am inclined (after much youthful confusion) to take a writer's writing at face value; the voice, the writer-persona, the text - it's all a construct, sometimes transparent, more often not, if only because it has been shaped for coherence, for effect. As long as Blog/TAP Matt isn't pulling a Jayson Blair, I don't much care if his fleshy manifestation doesn't match up with my impressions of him in writing. I SUSPECT he's a mensch, but I'm unlikely ever to know.
It's the smarts, the insight, the analytic powers, the jokes, the developing judgment...don't add up to a person, but eminently worth reading.

Posted by: grishaxxx | Aug 1, 2004 3:40:04 AM

And of course, writing exercises considerably different skills than conversation, so that writers who seem personable and intelligent can come off very badly in person, and vice versa. The internet generally brings this to the fore; how many cyber-romances are in fact the result of falling in love with someone's writing, rather than the whole-onion warts and all person?

Anyways, all that really matters is that I like someone's writing, and if they come across as a bright person who you'd like to discuss the satate of the world with over beers--like Matthew here, or a Sarah Vowell, or John Ralston Saul--I think readers realize that they're projecting, and even this low-grade semi-hero worship will usually be disappointed. You'd hope so, anyways. But the best line of all on the subject still belongs to Peter Sellers...

"There is no 'real me'. I had it surgically removed".

Posted by: Wrye | Aug 1, 2004 5:39:12 PM

"I can and do adopt various guises in life according to who I'm talking to and why"

are you trying to tell us that, though a mild mannered prospect writter by day, you are, in fact, one of DC's masked avengers by night?

Posted by: Nicholas Yglesias | Aug 2, 2004 9:56:34 AM

I hear Matt is taller than the blog makes him look.

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