Sociologist Erving Goffman believed that all human interaction was a theatrical performance. In his most famous book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman called his analysis the study of “Dramaturgy.”
Dramaturgical analysis is the idea that we present an edited version of our selves when we meet others in person.
The internet, of course, adds a new layer of complexity to Goffman’s perspective. If social media is edited real life, then our dramaturgical action is the physical extension of it. We are no less authentic online than we are in person.
Goffman’s theory builds on American sociologist Charles Cooley’s ‘The Looking Glass Self’ theory. In 1902, he contextualized the individual:
“I imagine your mind, and especially what your mind thinks about my mind, and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind.”
Keep in mind that people didn’t even think of themselves as individuals before the spread of mirrors in the 15th century.
We juggle identities online and off but each of us has a fixed character. It is our friends and family members and Google that know our truest self.