A Good Mask Is Hard To Find

by MarianneShih

The complexities of a human personality are created by an assortment of factors which include agents of socialization, biological traits, and many others. We are taught by family, friends, school, church, and media what is socially acceptable and what is not. Many of us are practically bred to live within the fuzzy lines of such a thing called “political correctness,” and in the struggle to color inside those lines, everything done outside the privacy of a locked and windowless room becomes prey to criticism by our surrounding community.

However, when confronted with weak promises of anonymity, what becomes of our timid demeanors? Another rule in the communication game changes, as each published phrase becomes “cached” into eternity, immaculately preserved for all to see.

It is sensible to say that under such dire circumstances, a web user would take the extra time to create a certain persona in order to seem less of a fool in the long run. But if one aspires to be an A-list blogger, youtuber, or popularity-contest-contender for all of cyberspace, it would also be sensible to assume a personality that has some sort of continuity regarding a supposed code of ethics, subject content, and even writing style.

But how do we decide? We fear that our true selves are too mundane and too daft to contend with hip, flashy socialites and scholars that live atop of the internet traffic pyramid. Would it be wiser to play up our more attractive features, or “be ourselves” as we keep encouraging our offspring to do? Whatever we choose, whether it is marked by the blogs we follow or the content we provide, we don a mask every time we log into our accounts to publish something new.

Ruskhoff insists in his book, Programmed or Be Programmed, “Because digital technology is biased towards depersonalization, we must make an effort not to operate anonymously, unless absolutely necessary. We must be ourselves.” The problem is that the word “Ourselves” can be incredibly vague. For (I would assume) most web users, Their-selves online are crafted according to how they would like to be perceived by the public eye. I like to imagine that I am in tune enough with Myself to recognize that I am a bit of a psychotic rambler despite the existence of full-fledged sentences and near-logical thought progression. Therefore in writing coherently, I disguise myself, yet these are still my thoughts.

Am I being “real?” I mean what I say, at least for now. If that is the sole criterion for presenting an accurate representation of myself to cyberspace, I would still be a fraud for all the things I haven’t said. To lie by omission is still dishonesty, no?

I conclude then that a good mask is hard to find.