QUESTION: Do people adjust their behavior and presentation of the self to affect the opinion of others? Would you say that we have different “social selves” that we present in different settings? How does this relate to the concepts of front and back stage as well as the techniques of social actors discussed by Goffman?
1st STUDNET: I chose this to discuss the first question this week because I think that a lot of people adjust behaviors to please those around them at any given time. Out of a need to be accepted, out of a need to please others. out of a need to impress others, and a variety of other reasons. Each person responds differently in group setting. That is not to say that some people are not true to themselves and refuse to mold themselves into what society expects, but so many seem to feel that it is better to “chameleon” themselves rather than stay true to who they really are, while even others still have no sense of identity without a group y which to mimic their actions and behaviors.
I most definitely believe that people have different “social selves” as they mold to fit a particular group or an individual whom they look up to or admire or even are intimidated by. “Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their head.”—William James
But the concept of the self loses its meaning if a person has multiple selves…the essence of self involves integration of diverse experiences into a unity…In short, unity is one of the defining features of selfhood and identity.–Roy Baumeister
Goffman’s “dramaturgy” describes society as a stage and people as the actors on that stage. How people conduct themselves when they have an audience and how the behave when they do not have to put on an act. Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective of the symbolic interactionism and each person in dramaturgy is seeking to make an impression on those for whom the performance is being given. Being in the restaurant business for as long as I have, I can relate to this front and back stage mentality. When you have a customer come in that has some outrageous request for how he/she would like her meal to be prepared, the staff will (or at least, should) bend over backwards to accommodate the request and ensure that the customer is satisfied. This is the “front stage”. However, when that customer leaves, or the staff is out of earshot of the customer, the customer is going to get blasted for such an outlandish request which takes extra time and often much extra patience. This is the “back stage”. People act as they feel is necessary to different groups of people and this may constantly be in a state of flux as the person interacts with various groups or individuals. The need for acceptance seems to be the driving force in such cases.
I thought this was an interesting question for this week, due to the fact it made me think of what I believe others do, but it also made me think if I in any way adjust my behavior and presentation. I do agree that in many cases, individuals present themselves differently within different social settings. The text stated that “As people interact, they monitor themselves and each other, looking for clues that reveal the impressions they are making on others” (Chamblis & Eglitis, 2015, p. 96). This is in line with the concept of Front and Back Stage, or Impression Management. When looking at daily interactions, Impression Management is the one that really is reflected in how individuals may adjust or differently present themselves in different situations. I agree that there are scenarios where I myself may project a difference in who I am trying to be.
When I look at Impression Management there are some examples in my own life that I can see, like when I attend Military Drill, I am presenting myself differently than when I am at one of my children’s school events. I may act differently when I am home with my family, than when I am at the gym. There are scenarios where projecting a difference is needed and I can think of how I am adjusting myself to fit the Front and Back Stage scenarios in my everyday life. In my own opinion, I think some of it has to do with comfort level of the environment or the situation. I know in unfamiliar situations I am projecting a much more authoritative and on-guard self, as where when I am at home with the family I am projecting a much more relaxed and fun loving self. I am not sure either are an act, but different projections of self that is based on the environment and situation.
Another area that I thought of as an example for Front Stage and Back Stage personas is within the celebrity world. Granted there is a financial component to their very predominant Front and Back Stage, but it is interesting to see. A few years ago I worked in executive protection in the Los Angeles/ Beverly Hills area. The company I worked for had some very high-end clients that ranged from professional athletes, actors, designers and music industry professionals. As expected, the job was primarily that of a physical protection detail; however, there was a high emphasis put on protecting the image of the individual as well. This included security measures at their homes to protect them from paparazzi, making sure any issues they may encounter while out were blocked form the public, checklists of what was needed, how they would appear while in public and when and where. It really became a 50/50 split between physical protection and protection of the image that was shown to the public. In many cases it was not the same image that was displayed in private, but much care was taken to protect the public image, due to the enormous amount of money that the image could be responsible for.
Also While looking at this topic, I found an article in Psychology Today entitled, “One Self or Many Selves? Understanding why we have a multiplicity of self-states”. The article discussed three types of self: Experiential Self, Private Self and the Public Self. I was interested in the third self, based on this week’s forum question. The article described the Public Self as, “ the public image that you attempt to project others, which in turn interacts with how other people actually see you” (Henriques, 2014). I thought that this definition within the article fit well with the idea that we do adjust ourselves to how we want others to see us in different situations. The article also goes on to discuss how our sense of self is greatly influenced by how we see ourselves, but also by how others see us. This reflects the motivation to adjust ones-self to reflect in a certain way, in-order to influence the way we are perceived by others.