No, I’m not talking about a psychiatric condition or James Bond novel. I’m talking about the multiple personas we have on social media, the web, and even in our own face-to-face lives.
Psychology studies have shown that we have a lot of different faces based on the roles we play: we’re children to our parents and spouses to our husbands and wives, we may be siblings to our brothers and sisters, students to our teachers, teachers to our students, employees to our bosses, or bosses to our employees. While there’s a fundamental similarity to this entity we call “I,” there can also be differences based on the roles we inhabit.
As an employee I’m conscientious about my tasks whereas at home, maybe the garden doesn’t get weeded as often as it should. I might be gracious to the acquaintances I rarely see but get a little impatient with the spouse with whom I share a home.
I’ll take a step further even than that. Over the years, because I can turn my hand to several different jobs and skill sets, I’ve struggled with how to “brand” myself — not as a writer (though that’s a challenge, too), but as a human being.
What do you do when you write novels, are a career consultant, and have a day job as a user experience designer, all of which require public “faces” to be turned to the world at large? What’s worse, what do you do when the most important part of your life — your spiritual practice — informs everything you do but is out of the American mainstream and subject to much misunderstanding?
Add to that the tendency for social media outlets to become one-size-fits-all-personas PR machines, and there’s a very good chance my rich and varied worlds will collide.
Will posting something technical but pertinent to my work on Facebook cause my readers to cast aside my books? Will posting a self-help-style musing cause the tech recruiter I’m working with to avoid sending out my resume? Will some of my more out-of-the-box design ideas cause my family to roll their eyes with a “there she goes again, living in a dream world” sigh?
I used to try to keep the proverbial Chinese wall between these worlds, mostly for marketing/branding purposes, but partly because of the danger of what I listed in the paragraph immediately above. I’ve had too many potential employers tell me that if they’d known about the creative writing part of my MA in English, they wouldn’t have bothered to call me in for a technical writing interview because they expected me to turn up in a billowing skirt and flowers in my flowing hair rather than a gray pinstripe suit, hair pulled back in a sleek bun.
As I get older, I’ve come to see that to keep these worlds separate is to splinter my personality and to sell short my various capabilities. If someone is offended in some way about the crossover components of what I do and how I think, then it’s better they know that up front — otherwise, I’m “selling a lie,” as it were.
Sure, it’s sometimes good for people, like those potential employers, to experience one side of me they respect before encountering their own prejudices about the side of me they don’t. But my position on that has started to change: If someone is so settled on their own pre-judgment that they stereotype me (“She writes romance? Sheesh!”) rather than keeping an open mind, then I probably won’t fit into their organization, group, lives, etc.
Let’s wear all our hats, shall we? What hat are you wearing today?
Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.