Character Play (The advent of the 1-D personality)
I looked at the Facebook page, feeling at once proud and confused.
One of the younger members of my high school show choir group felt that they needed to reach out to all of us before we left for college to tell us what we had taught them. (Besides how not to hold it together in the face of overtime dance tragedy. )
The post started out, ready to expunge on me a life truth I wasn’t aware I had taught.
“You taught me all about all the different parts of ones self. Your Instagram feed is so multifaceted.”
Multifaceted. I wasn’t upset. I was actually a little relieved. Then I got a little upset that I was relieved.
She wasn’t wrong. My Instagram feed is full of contradiction. Sunny pictures of smiling teenagers sit next to aspiring quasi editorial pictures, pictures of flowers pale next to my face in full rocky horror splendor. To an outsider, it may seem cohesive, and normal. That’s probably because it is normal. People have many sides to themselves. I have many interests. Some days I enjoy perusing the Internet for dress materials, intent on learning to sew. Other days I’d rather do nothing more than finally discard everything in my wardrobe that isn’t some shade of black. I am not one sided, and I doubt that I would want to be. How interesting would it be to talk to someone who can’t explore other aspects of themselves? In theory, there’s nothing wrong or unusual at the fact that I’m a varied personality. What bothers me is how much “multifaceted” puts me Ill at ease.
When I was younger, I used to ask my friends what my style was. Was I boho chic? Was I sweet or, strangely, spicy? (As many teen magazines would like me to classify myself as.) Interestingly enough, their response was always reassurance. “Sure you do! You have a style, you have a vibe.” I was doubtful. When I looked in my wardrobe, I saw a a mix of clothing. One day I had decided I was going to be an androgynous rockstar, and the next day I wanted nothing more than traditional cardigans. The clothes gave away something about myself. I was far from knowing What I wanted to wear, let alone who I wanted to be. I began to feel empty. Who was I if I didn’t have something that defined me? How would people take the time to get to know me if they couldn’t see what I had to offer? I spent many long nights formulating new plans to change my asthetic, my hair, my blog. (I have so many abandoned blogs on the internet it’s practically a graveyard.) I stared to feel like I was a conglomerate. I researched borderline personality disorder, which I’m not entirely sure I don’t have. All the while, I wondered when I would figure out exactly who I was.
Looking back, I begin to see where the problem arises I remember watching television and seeing archetypes. The jock. The goth girl. The cool Asians subverted for laughs in Mean Girls. This isn’t abnormal. What is abnormal is people thinking that they have to be archetypes. People, as well as me, feeling that having an “image” is important, and that in order to have an image, one must have a “thing.” But sometimes, I’ve found, we aren’t one thing. We’re smart but we like fashion. We love music, sure, but we aren’t all going on to become DJs.
The advent of Twitter means that we can talk to our favorite authors, our favorite celebrities, and, perhaps most tellingly, we’re all in a race to gain followers. In the world of Facebook, we craft something pretty for other people to look at. In essence, we market ourselves to others. And it’s a lot easier to follow someone on Instagram when it’s a fashion blog, or a punk pastel kawaii tumblr instead of someone’s life, twists and turns and bumps and all. It’s an idea. It’s an image. And the same has started to leak into people’s perceptions of themselves.
“It’s a lot easier to follow someone on Instagram when it’s a fashion blog or a punk pastel kawaii tumblr instead of someone’s life”
Once I was talking to a friend, and noticed he was upset. He went on to tell me that he didn’t feel people took him seriously enough. He was going to change his image. He wasn’t going to make the same jokes anymore. I looked on in disbelief.
“People aren’t characters,” I said. “We can’t be one dimensional when no on is in real life.”
He looked forward. “Maybe I’ll join the football team.”