Sorry, I Forgot Who I Was

When I was a pubescent schoolboy, confused and impatient my voice to drop octaves and gain a Blessed boom, I was often accused of deepening my voice when answering questions in class. I would avoid putting my hand up, something I had done so urgently at primary school on any occasion where I imagined I knew the answer, to avoid the digs and tribal jockeying for position that would go with my funereal delivery.

Now grown up, and losing hair rather than gaining it, I still see traces of my impostor work. Possessing one of those rather plain middle class voices, heavily accented in its own way by dint of its vanilla quality, I find my voice culturally and geographically oscillating depending on the company. While not up there with Woody Allen’s Zelig, I can observe my discomfort at being me by the way my accent reflects who am I with, whether an east end cab driver or a fallen nobleman who now uses his castle to manufacture aristocratically styled sorbets (fictional example, not met as yet). Despite the traveling accent, I don’t find my opinions changing to fit in, hopefully I have evolved enough callouses so that I don’t flit in and out of opinions depending on the social engagement.

Death by my opinions at parties or on stage, rather than a life on borrowed bigotries (that is not to say I don’t have my own).

We are all dicks sometimes, I am sure even Francis of Assisi once stole acorns from a squirrel or was rude to a rabbit to impress a monk.

I think about our internet selves. What am I projecting? How much care goes into my display of self. If you follow my Twitter feed, your answer is probably “not enough”.
The problem of social media, where all your friends may be following you, is that you may display different facets and prejudices with different groups. How can you keep up your “kind and liberally progressive” front, when to your other friends you project your “dirty joke and wild ribaldry” persona when in the pub. This is something I presume Richard Dawkins deals with on daily basis. “Do I tell the one about the nun and the tadpole or focus on The Extended Phentoype?”

I may delete tweets, usually those knee jerk fury ones or jokes I realised were bad only upon reflection. In conversation, those mistakes are soon drowned by further noise, but on the internet, a poor thought or piteous punchline hangs around.
Hopefully, most of my social media reflects roughly what I think I am, and I would not shy away from saying these things to most friends or audiences, it is only their banality that might stop me in my tracks.

The danger comes, if you are juggling too many fronts. In the last few months, I have been surprised by a few of my friends updates. Their opinions didn’t appear to match up with the people I had drunk with. Were they revealing the thoughts they kept buried when talking with “bleeding heart lefties”, just so the wine wasn’t bruised by cross words and silences, or was this some internet version of them for another audience, just another front for a presumed audience. Is this like the charming journalist you meet who then bullies and crushes with their weekly column? Is the social self the liar, and the internet self the revelation, or just a smorgasbord?

The Set List Show, a night where comedians are given idiosyncratic phrases and words, and have to confidently and immediately deliver routines based on them, can stoke disturbing sentences and startling thought processes. The comedian, being scrutinised and desperate to avoid failure in front of their peers, finds every smidgen of their conscious, subconscious, and any other available pathway being ransacked, leading to moments of wide-eyed astonishment from the performer, “now I wasn’t expecting to say that.” It is tricking being a multitude, especially when you may kids yourself you are singular (does that make sense?).

Oh well, I had too many friends anyway, I was almost up having to use a thumb to count them.

I am off on tour – Goole, Cardiff, Cambridge, Harrogate, London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Belfast and on and on (and I am bringing Grace Petrie too). Tour Details HERE http://www.robinince.com

My three hour ludicrous DVD is HERE http://www.gofasterstripe.com/cgi-bin/website.cgi?page=videofull&id=19574

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6 Responses to Sorry, I Forgot Who I Was

  1. ds says:

    Oh, but this is a can of worms. “Internet selves” are just another form of persona, and personas are mediated performances. We perform sleeves all the time to a whole bunch of different people at different times. In the case of a comedian I bet it’s very common to be told that that you are not the same person off-stage as you are one. There is a sense in which one performs oneself constantly. And that includes memory too, continuously and continually reimagining and reinterpreting one’s role in events in the past. This goes back to the likes of Henri Bergsson, who basically said that memory (and identity, of which memories are a huge part) was a performative act. And that goes all the way through sociologists like Goffman, and even linguists like Halliday. In human systems there is little in the way of “objective” truth. Context is all, to borrow slightly from every wanky media studies student’s favourite, Jacques Derrida.

    As someone with a training in the physical sciences (Physics), that always used to bother me. Now it doesn’t. They are just different types of system, amenable to different types of analysis, though in the odd idle moment from time to time I ponder that there are elements of economics, for example (like the macroscopic statistical stuff), that remind me vaguely of Boltzmann and his tinkering with statistical mechanics. But maybe that’s just me.

  2. ds says:

    We even perform selves, as opposed to sleeves.

  3. liliannberg says:

    You are spot on when you say our social persona is the liar – and the internet persona much more reflective of our true selves. It’s drilled into us from childhood not to be offensive, to show tact and consideration for other people’s feelings and to protect ourselves from being a target for disdain and bullying. It’s a polite game we play that has absolutely nothing to do with who we truly are. We are trained to be liars. yet at the same time we’re told lying is a sin. I can only speak for myself, but I fearlessly tweet things I’d never dream of saying face to face, to anyone, no matter how close a friend. Funny thing is, none of those who know me have ever commented on a single tweet I’ve posted so far. It’s like they prefer me – the sociable liar, rather than me – the proverbial heart on the sleeve. It’s as if you only really exists in other people’s opinions of you – and they are all lying anyway…. ,

    • Gary says:

      I largely agree with what you say. But the one point I’d struggle with is that we’re told lying is a sin. As an ardent secularist and liberal, I don’t think we’ve shown any respect for honesty or loyalty as valuable concepts. These have largely become conservative domains in the last 20 years (a rather silly surrender given that both political leanings are equally terrible at them).
      Through my entire upbringing and education, I don’t remember anyone ever saying a single thing about honesty, besides my parents. I remember about 100 different times we were told about the importance of equality and being kind to topical victim group X. But not a single mention of honesty. Or kindness. Or courtesy. Or loyalty. Which is why I tend to be skeptical, as I know Robin is too, of a blanket opposition to religion. At least religions actually try and cover these bases.

  4. Gary says:

    Haha, why do I suspect one of the events that prompted this was Dawkins telling someone it would be immoral to give birth to a down syndromed (that a word?) child? That certainly shocked me.
    I would point you to Jonathan Haidt’s entire body of work on morality. He’s undeniably right that what we tend to call ‘morality’ is a lot more about signaling your tribal allegiances than it is about preventing harm. Sadly this problem has been taken to the Nth degree by social liberals. Saying the correct things in public has long since overtaken thoughts or actions as the prime currency of your character in the liberal west. It’s simply a sad fact that having someone tell you they’re a progressive liberal, tells you no more about their actual character than the gay marriage laws tell you about david cameron’s character. It’s pure signalling, nothing more.

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