What face do you show to the world? Is it yours?

04 Mar 2009|Leah Hunter

Lately, I’ve taken a professional interest in the reputation management websites like Naymz that are popping up all over the internet. Mostly, because it reflects a trend toward personality-scrubbing and echoes a debate that constantly rages among my friends and colleagues: How much of yourself do you share with others? Where do you draw the line between work and play—friends and “work” friends—friends and clients?…

In my book, those distinctions are artificial. People weave in an out of life in strange and wonderful ways. With barter systems, social networking, and plain old-fashioned community back on the rise (look for Leigh Marriner’s excellent upcoming post on community), the ways in which people shake and blend are less distinct. I say, throw everything in. Put it in the kettle. See what mixes up.

I didn’t always feel this way. In the past, I believed strongly in separation of church and state. There was my work me, then there was my me-me. This was mostly when I was going through my navy blue suit and sensible pumps period. (If you know me, that’s a pretty good joke.) And you know what resulted from that? A feeling of isolation. Artifice. A me that was less happy and productive because I was expending so much energy trying to separate and arbitrate between the two sides.

A friend told me about recently about someone she knows who has a “faux” Facebook account. It’s a filter for the people–colleagues, mostly–that he feels he has to friend. Then he forwards the “real” address to a select few that he wants to friend. It’s one approach to take. It’s clever, even. But I wonder whether the temporary benefit outweighs the long-term one that comes with inclusion? (Hint: This may not just a personal benefit, but an economic one as well. Authenticity is a meaning many people seek–making it an amazingly powerful purchase motivator.)

I read a great quote the other day by Nathanial Hawthorne. Yes, he did write something other than “The House of the Seven Gables.” Hawthorne said, “No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true one.”

Put another way: It is possible to pretend to be something you’re not. Some people might even like you better that way. But will you like yourself? And, even if they do, will you be satisfied when the “you” they fall for is only part of you…is less than all you are…is a mask?

I like to operate as one—putting all the disparate, imperfect, wonderful parts on display. I am a mashup of Bob Dylan and electroclash, business-smarts and wanderlust, hugs and graffiti and amazing days and late nights in cities where I don’t speak the language. And all my friends, professional and personal (of which you are now included), get in on that action.

prev next