(Identity n: The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known, The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality. Ety: from Latin idem, the same, being, and identidem, repeatedly, from id, it; see i- in Indo-European roots.)
Tonight's WoTW is a bit naughty of me. As some of you might know, I've been seeing a counselor to deal with my er, black dog issues. She knows I write this blog and she asked me to write a blog post on `identity` as my homework for our next session. However, I don't think she expected me to post this online.
So, identity - it's something that I think I'm becoming more and more aware of as I wade deeper into that pool that calls itself `Social Media`. Increasingly it seems, we are required to define ourselves - and as briefly as possible, from the elevator speech to Twitter's 140 character limit on profile descriptions. Who are we - or more importantly how do we wish to be perceived? Sometimes I don't even think that people are conscious of their words coming to define themselves.
Something I've noticed a lot on Twitter is that women seem to define themselves predominantly by their relationships to others; I would say 60% of the women I follow do this. Their profile definition is always `wife/mother/sister/daugher/aunt` etc. Clearly these relationships are very important to them - as they are to the majority of us - but do they come to define you as a person and are they the first thing that you want people to notice about you?
I found it really hard to define myself, or `Brand Me` as some social media users consider it, in 140 characters; it seems just so arbitrary. Why yes, I *am* a wife thank you - and I'm a daughter and a sister and a best friend and a sales manager and a niece and a cousin - all of these chart the various relationships I have. But they're not all me - what is the essence of `Stupidgirl45` and is that any different to `Becky` (my real name). Is `stupidgirl45` an internet persona that I choose to wear? Are all these relationships personas that I choose to wear in any given and appropriate situation?
For those who don't know, my twitter profile says " I have webbed toes I'm left handed, deaf+deeply uncool". You may be wondering why I chose to highlight a) my disability b) a deformity c) the hand I write with and d) my lack of coolness? Well I chose them because I was trying to differentiate myself from all the other Tweeps out there but also because, as I said before, they're arbitrary words. People can make judgments on me based on what I've chosen to tell you about myself. I guess I was hoping that you'd see that mainly, I have a sense of humour about myself and also that I like to be different.
It genuinely never occurred to me to describe myself in relation to my relationships with other people. What does it mean that I'm a wife or a sister? It doesn't mean nothing but equally, to me, those relationships are far too personal and complex to use them to define myself in 140 characters.
Btw clearly I am just talking about myself here, please do not feel that if you do this that I am judging you, as I'm not - I'm merely curious about why people do this. I would be very keen to hear your thoughts on this - and also your perceptions of me, based on my 140 character description.
Linking to this I'd like to touch on why I use the ID of Stupidgirl45. It's a question I've been asked about a million times - and it's a good question - but also seems to really infuriate people that I've chosen the name stupidgirl (as apparently, I'm not). I've used stupidgirl45 as an online ID for nearly 15 years now. It initially acted as a sort of filter for me - the stupidgirl part comes from the song by Garbage, as I'm a huge fan. The number part is kind of random - I was setting up an email account and there were apparently, 44 other stupidgirls. Also this song had just come out. I also like wearing the name stupid; it acknowledges that a) I really don't know anywhere near as much as I'd like to think I do and b) that we're always learning - it reminds me to be humble about myself. So I hope that clears that one up for you guys!
So who am I really? I'm stupidgirl, I'm Becky/Rebecca/Beckle/Bex, I'm SG45, I'm Betty to one particular friend, what does it all mean? My counselor seems to think that I have trouble feeling a sense of identity that comes from myself. That my identity at any given moment is a reflection of the situation I'm in and the appropriate behaviour for that - friend, wife, climbing partner, professional, blogger, writer, daughter, daughter-in-law, colleague. When my counselor asked me "But who are you?" I really struggled to answer.
I thought of things I liked - books, music, chocolate, crap telly, dancing, climbing, hanging out. I thought of personality traits I think I have - loyalty, tact, kindness, chattiness, exuberance. But me, essence of me? I've spent so long hiding behind developing parts of myself that I thought other people wanted to see that I think I've lost sight of who I really am. I'm never quite sure if I have a characteristic because I am genuinely inclined that way or because I want people to perceive me as being like that. All I know for sure is that I probably need to work on developing my sense of identity based on both external *and* internal measures.
But am I really alone in feeling like this - can any of us really define for sure who we are? And really does any of it even matter? If you really want to be a certain way - and act like it - does that mean it's you? Do any of us really have a concrete sense of `self`?
I suspect any psychologists that read this blog are having a field day with today's WoTW. I know I've not talked about identity in relation to writing at all, but rest assured, next week's post will be about `Characterisation` which in some ways is Identity Part 2. So tune in then.
I'd love to hear any and all of your comments about this - and I hope I've not scared you off by sounding like a complete nutcase!
Thank you and goodnight
Stupidgirl has left the building
PS Talking of great minds think alike, if you're interested in other blogposts about identity, check out this by my great friend Rach!