Nowadays, the concept of identity became progressively popular and questioned
since this new millennium, largely affected by Internet and World Wide Web
Current sociologists have defined this epoch labelling with
“Postmodernism”: it literally means “beyond
the modernity” and has been invaded by a fast steam of flowing information,
modifying the nature of each person leading to be a citizen of a connecting world.
This epoch sees a firm twine between reality and cyberspace breaking
with the past through a constant overthrowing of tradition on the various
sectors (culture, relationship, art, institutions): “all that is solid melts”
(Bauman) and moves into a liquid
status better describing this even more frenetic and in continuous changing
life (Bauman, Liquid Modernity). The effect of this clear transformation can be
certainly seen on the approach of self-identity, as Kobena Mercer comments”
identity only becomes an issue when it is in crisis, when something assumed to
be fixed, coherent is displayed by the experience of doubts and
uncertainty” (Mercer, 1990, p1).
The best way to analyse an individual is conducting a careful observation
of how they act in different situations; in this matter, Erving Goffman better
design the modus exhibendi (from
Latin, “way of showing (in this case) ourselves”) in life.
The purpose of this
essay is to look back at Goffman’s Presentation
of Self in everyday life, considered his extremely successful work and rated,
in addition, the most important sociological text of the twentieth century; and
to figure out a possible way of application over the “everyday” life through a
precise analysis of the factors involved in his piece.
It examines fairly the interaction
between people evaluating various ways of how they manage the image and
impressions of themselves.
But before diving figuratively inside the sociological pool, it is
important to highlight how the sociologist operates in his work: the
examination is made using the imagery of theatre; people in everyday life are
actors on a stage, playing distinct roles leading to the creation of different
performances in a variety of settings.
The dramaturgical model, as it is defined, outlines two places where the
actor can perform. Goffman suggests the existence of the front stage which represents the overall situation where the
individual acts out; a backstage
which instead includes the preparation of the actor to take the “effective” action.
A perfect performance, led on the
front, is building on the further aspects: the setting, which includes not
only the physical room, but the props used; the appearance, which describes the
unchangeable factors. They are like age, race, gender, the items carried and
the clothes wore. Not less important are the manners, those stimuli which
function at the time to warn us of the interaction role the performer will
expect to play in the oncoming situation (Goffman, p.15) which involve facial
expressions or confidence that can influence our behaviour towards the action.
The interaction essentially expects the presence of the audience, a single person or a large group, who is motivated to help the
performance whether embarrassment comes out. Goffman doesn’t lessen the
embarrassment but assumes it as an important indicator which can more likely to
reduce the hypothetic distance between two people especially if the interaction
is arranged by two strangers who have just met.
The rise of Web has
established a new range of communication with no more the need of a physically
presence of the participants. Meanwhile, the presentation of self sees
different opportunities and experiences new problems.
Certainly, they are
personal web pages and the new social networks which carry on this changing
face-to-face interaction must be situated in a bounded time and place, the
actor is able only to play a single role as convincingly as possible in order
to succeed in perceiving the response one is more likely expected to obtain.
Online interaction can currently be one-to-one, one-to-many or possibly one-to-no-one
and can take place at the same time. Synchronism is an evident factor which
goes against to the placed performance and all the walls which define the
different stages becoming largely invisible. The individual can perform
privately with an email or entirely promiscuous using the social network at the
same time with the same device.
allows both person, even two strangers, to outline a quick idea of the other
extent like where they probably come from, they are, or they possible mind-set.
This permits to “frame” the communication properly (Goffman) so that both are
more likely to know how to lead what is led on, in a specific space and time of
what is certainly leading on.
personal account or blogs cannot provide the same massive effect: an online
extent could be get and found in various ways, via Google, other websites, an
ad, or article distorting the image who the author aims to give to their
audience. As a result, it seems like the user of the blog has arranged their
public online face differently.
A person who is
actually interacting with the performer may be get confused and worst still, can
misinterprets what is intended.
Even though the
presenting disadvantages, it can’t be excluded the possibility of webpages,
rather than email system, of getting a bit closer to the concept of a real presence
during the interaction.
Visual content is a central
resource for creating an online impression (Ellison et al., 2006) and mainly
the social network pages such as Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram allow their users to present photos of them (alternatively
with friends, family members), and access to their and other users’ interests.
This might be an ulterior motive to allow the audience to interact virtually as
much similar as they have met in a place such as a bar or in the office.
shows to have a deeply cynical view of human nature. Cynicism factor takes part
in performances. An individual doesn’t have to seriously believe in the role
they play so that, the concept of self-presentation can be purely assumed as a means
to another or for the gain of others.
the other hand, the sociologist doesn’t exclude cases where performances assume
a sincere significance where there is no fabrication included. Jehovah’s
witnesses may be an example of people who truly believes in their play reflecting
their inner self.
most of the actions show an equal amount of both sincerity and cynicism.
blogs permit to conduct only a sceptical performance since they aim to purely
promote the user over the Web. The owner might introduce real facts, but in
order to get views, it is essential to make every move in an exaggerated key.
could be discussed that Goffman’s approach works over the World Wide Web.
the structure of self in Goffman’s
sense, it is arguable the existence of two distinct stages where the individual
can play. The online privacy is more often consciously compromised.
Technically, most social
media sites allow users to adjust settings to check who has access to view
for instance, permits friends or “friends of friends”, to access specific
content but on the other side, there’s no doubt that people over
internet are incentivised in showing their life in order to control the others.
Almost everything is done to show off and receive information in change; so
that the confine between the front and back has become very weak since people
love to expose their hidden sides which, previously, have been concealed.
ideal Goffman’s backstage not only belongs to the single actor at stake, but is
made accessible to the audience which can interfere with the actor’s image.
examination carried by Goffman written down on 1954, doesn’t seem to be
outdated. Internet doesn’t have a scenario as far from the reality but the dramaturgical model can
be applied as long as few alterations are made.
velocity are two factors which the online identity can’t exclude: the action
can be taken down when the individual has performed its goal; on the internet,
once the user gets connected, the front is being presented constantly, as a
result, it can also never be relaxed.
has undoubtedly enhanced Goffman’s model throughout the years where an actor
can take action as uno, nessuno e
centomila (One, No one and One Hundred Thousand, Pirandello).
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