Identity Crisis

by phil on Wednesday Jun 4, 2003 6:46 PM
identity, individuality

Woah, what does that word mean. Identity crisis? What is your identity? What is identity afterall?

Okay, identity is like the sum of the ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree of your message body that broadcasts unique traits about yourself. Right? Then what is an identity crisis? Is it something more than changing, but rather the shaking of the tree and then the subsequent falling of the ornaments? Or is it rather when the broadcast that you give to yourself feels inauthentic, almost like a simulation or a confused matrix of lies you've lived yourself to be under. Would this must be an affliction common to introverts? I think it would be difficult to just internally broadcast your own identity to yourself without some sort of grain of salt, right? I may think I'm the Adonis Maximus, but if I take a physical mirror and open my eyes, I'll get the accurate body of my identity.

But which is the right identity?

In the film Empire, John Leguizamo says, "See, Women want you to change into something right? But then, when you become that person, they don't like you no more cuz you're no longer the person they fell in love with"

But what is this "person" construct? Who is being fallen in love with? It's not you. It can't be you, you're nothing but another bag of flesh and flash. It can only be your identity, that which you broadcast.

I wonder what life is like to people who present a completely different identity from what they are on the inside.

I know a guy at Stanford who seems to ALWAYS be hiding something. He's always got this look, this shake, this nervousness, this arsenal of half-complete sentences and withheld dreams. Anyways, only me and one other person seem to notice this trait. Everybody else just kind of likes him. He's friendly, nice, solid, etc. Chicks dig him as well sometimes. What's my problem with him, then? What difference does it make? The identity that he's broadcasting stays consistent and he has predictable responses to things.

Is predictability a prerequisite for having an authentic identity?

Okay, well, if you had a changing personality, your identity would be constantly changing it seems, but then you'd have this predictable "changing personality." Probably, most people can't fully escape some basic features of their identity except during puberty or through really traumatic experiences.

But anyways, yeah, people just fall in love with the identity you broadcast.

But, how much of YOU, the YOU you, is actually broadcasted? I bet there are couples who don't have deep conversations. And they're perfectly in love with eachother it seems.

And now, we move on to me.

What was kind of interesting about this whole blogging experience was in revealing identity. After I started blogging like crazy and letting my friends in on it, a couple of times, people were surprised that I had thoughts that ran the gamut of what I post here. In a few instances, people treated me differently after seeing what was on here. I kind of found this confusing, or rather surprising. Almost like a revelation of sorts. See, I had always walked around under the impression that the impression I was giving people was a complete picture of me.... I mean, what other evidence would I have that I wasn't?

Sometimes I walk into rooms with a conception of who I am which is about a googl-sized fruit tree of data, but then if I mentally transport myself into the minds of strangers I'm like, "wow, I'm just ANOTHER kid walking into a room, with x haircut, y clothes, z gait" nothing else.

Maybe that's why people, or at least the landed gentry of times before, placed so much on things like "reputation." Reputation is like a safety for people. It's a back-up copy of your identity floating around in the substrate of people's gossip. Through reputation you can exert a control over the identity that is handed to people. Reputation is strong too because when many people uphold a particular conception of one's reputation, many people just believe it outright based on popular endorsement.

Now, there are people that live out their lives IN their reputations. Their own internal broadcast of identity is confused, even threatened, by the identity of their reputation, of how they are perceived. This curious feature of the human code leads to things like wearing the latest clothing trends, getting that nice house up in the hills, going to a good school, and getting a degree. These trinkets confirm to us that we are truly the identity that our trinkets claim we are.

Which brings me back to Blogging and an interesting thing Chaz told me once. "I love it when my friend's do art, it really reveals so much more about them"

Personal blogging is another personal art of self-expression. What makes this curious is that the depth of my identity in the virtual world, the one of the Internet, is starting to be deeper and more interesting that the depth of my Identity in the real world. I may be jumping to conclusions too fast, but people who have read my blog word for word have so much more insights into what I'm all about than a good portion of my closest friends who don't read it.

Other people may claim, and semi-rightfully so, that they "know me." Sure, they've seen a lot of my visible external behavior, and patterns emerge, and then a judgment about my character is solidified.

But, is my identity just the story-like course of activities I publicly participate in--playing racquetball, telling stupid jokes, eating dinner and being halfway between a socialite and a hermit. Sure, these model my "behavior" that is written on the dynamic of these flesh parts connected to my mind.

But something speaks to me that the closer I am to the source, the closer I am to my real identity.

Writing's a great insight to the mind, but never a complete insight. Even the dialog of my own thoughts are not a completely accurate picture of what's going on. Like I kind of gestured at earlier, my stream of consciousness is influenced by my own prejudices, and will give me a blurry perception of myself.

Then, what becomes real and what becomes virtual? Is my online identity more real than my identity in physical space? Shouldn't real be determined based on what's accurate or as close to what's really there? But what's really there? Everything is kind of a Russian doll sequence of simulated identities within simulated identities.

Anyways, back to blogging and the Internet. The first chapter in the DARPA days laid the groundwork for the technical infrastructure of the Internet. The second chapter was the very rapid commercialization and popularization of that structure with humans who then exploded onto the scene like a deer in the headlights--can you believe it, we're already post-dot-com-boom already?

It's the third chapter now, and this is where things are going to start getting really interesting. I think certain program spaces have only touched the tip of the iceberg. But take something like IM and compare it with walking on the street.

Right now, I can walk around and hit on somebody, and bank on some nice features about my identity that I can broadcast: my nice clothes, lack of bad smell, decent haircut, and generally amicable personality. But online, in IM, I can broadcast a link to my blog, and bam, so much more infinitely interesting information can be transmitted. Now, current IM constructs don't lend themselves, or rather, don't seem designed for identity broadcasting.

Pretty much the only knobs for transmission are your nickname, your away message/status, and this little matchbox space for your profile.

Blogs provide a way for extending that, but it's still in a webpage form. The two need to be melded together such that my identity explodes online in a way that trumps the amount of identity that can be sent in the physical world.

Right now, there are ways to broadcast, but they're all just hacks.

I'm not looking for customizable avatars in everquest or whatever, I'm shooting here for something more unknown. I'm looking for a system that brings out untapped areas of human identity that have never really come to the forefront.

If general happiness is on the x-axis, shouldn't there be a y-axis of how interesting that happiness is?

This is why I got excited one day when I went to weblogs and just kept opening up random blogs. I was like, "Woah! People actually are waking up." The question came into my mind, were these people this interesting before they started blogging? Well, it must have been stored in there somewhere, just never realized, and therefore never manifested into a substance to become part of an observable identity.

I wonder what other "waking ups" have yet to happen, and how much further the human race is going to advance. Fortunately there's popular movies out there like the Matrix that at least attempts to shake people enough to start pursuing topics beyond their usual popcorn life.

Or.. is this decadence? :-)


lennie said on May 12, 2004 3:40 AM:

hi! My name is lennie.First of all,thanks for
your wonderful articles regarding "identity
crisis",i've learned something from it. I be
came interested on your topic because i came
nearly often asking myself and especially at
times when i'm alone and gettin confused who
am i really,i got sick questioning myself and
i'm striving to find those answer.And who could
really explain it to me. By the way, i'm a
female, are you open regarding a topics about
lesbianism?Can you email me some things you
know about it? and what are the factors that
can lead a person becoming a lesbian?having
this identity crisis?And how am i going to know
who really am i? What are the things that i'l
have to do for me to my own identity and stands
for it. Thank you so much. I am looking for
your response.Pls de reply on my email.


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