“We Will Only Know Ourselves Through the Eyes of Each Other.”

In 1959 Erving Goffman said,

“In a sense, and in so far as this mask represents the conception we have formed of ourselves – the role we are striving to live up to – this mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be.”

The self is not a single entity, but a combination of performances – mediated by social conventions, interpersonal relations, and perceived cultural expectations – through which we are constantly shifting. We move freely between the front and back stage areas of our lives, from one interaction to the next. That we narrate our performance is nothing new; before social media we narrated our lives internally, spilling out into the odd vainglorious anecdote. We tell our stories like we live in a movie scene, where everything is as fresh as the bright blue sky. Our movies are devoid of plot, there are no cutaways, only a dream-like glide from one sequence to the next. We know life is not like this, but it sometimes feels like it. Ever find yourself at the wheel of your beaten-up Vauxhall Corsa, leaned way back, head tilted downwards, eyes fixed on the road, emotionless? Your right hand at the top of the steering wheel, left on the gearstick? You are the director, producer, and the biggest star of your own life story. Backstage at home you are a rock star in music videos and while you go about your chores you appear in television ads for your favourite brands. You are the camera. You are the star. You are the product. You are the brand.

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Pelican, 1959, p30