Separation of Self

This post has origins that predate this blog. It started with a conversation with a work colleague last year. A conversation that could only happen, I think, because we were removed from the context of our normal work environment.

It was on the drive to a weekend conference we were attending outside the city. One of the topics of conversation we wound our way around to was the company’s recent efforts at diversity and inclusion. More specifically, the concept of making it safe to bring your ‘whole self’ to work.

A worthy goal, we thought, but one destined to failure.

Years upon years of working in a corporate environment trains us how to act at work. How to present ourselves. How to talk. There is even an expected language of the environment that extends beyond simply the technical jargon specific to any given area.

These things all come together to create a persona. This persona is still ‘you’, but it’s ‘work you’. Home you is likely someone quite different. Then there’s out on the town with friends you. Who’s that guy?

We tried to determine what ‘whole self’ even meant, then. When different aspects of who you are, are so dependent on the people you’re interacting with at the time, is there ever anytime, anywhere, when you’re being your ‘whole self’? We didn’t think so.

I don’t recall if the parallel was drawn in this particular conversation or not — but separation of self is certainly true for us here on the Internet as well.

At best we show a subset of who we are, something I reflected on in a comment a little while ago now, when UltrViolet1 said the following:

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m very much adopting a “writing persona” when I write. I’m assuming a role. I’m setting aside “me” and stepping into the role of “the writer.” So the idea that anyone can get to know “me” through “my writing” strikes me somewhat discordantly.

UltrViolet (2019) — Staying Private in Public (Endgame Viable)

In my comment-reply to this at the time, I noted: “There are times I might endeavour to bring more of the ‘real me’ to the fore than usual, but it is a conscious effort and an exception to the norm.”

But in the context of UltrViolet’s post — this could be somewhat unclear. Unlike Ultr, or a streamer who puts on a persona, I don’t mean to say there is a role I consciously step into and adopt when I seat myself behind the keyboard to write one of these.

But like the work persona, or the home persona, or the out with friends persona — the Internet persona is contextual. And possesses significant differences from the others. For one, I tend to be more optimistic online. Not to say I’m all doom and gloom generally — but I’m more open to the idea of trusting and the general goodness of people online. I know. On the internet. Go figure.

In part I blame it being part of the job at work to identify how any given proposition might be gamed or abused.

I think online I’m also typically more open to discussing, well, things like this. Which now that I’m really thinking about it, I wonder if ‘Online me’ is at at least as true a reflection of self as the others?

Anywho. Boy have I wandered around this one. What I thought was the main topic of the post didn’t even end up being discussed!2 Maybe a follow-up post at some point would be in order. :)

Although next up I think simply has to be some gaming stuff of some sort. The itch to go back to tackling The Horrible Hundred in FFXIV might be rising again. Also?

They got me. They got my money early with the blasted name reservation. Well played Blizzard, well played.
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