The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

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Titel: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life – Forfatter: Erving Goffman

★★★★☆

Erving Goffman’s sociological theory is important to mention, when one talks about the impact of social media. The focus of theory is social interaction; how the individuals portray themselves, and ‘the part of social life that occurs whenever two or more individuals are in one another’s response presence’ (Stones, 2008). Furthermore, Goffman presents a close analysis of ‘what people do when they [are] in the company of others, and of how those doings are understood by participants’ (ibid.). Inspired by Durkheim and Simmel, Goffman focuses on three important things:

‘An interest in the central role of ideals and morality in social life; the attempt to formulate a fully sociological version of the individual person; and a concern to develop sociology as an empirical discipline rather than a speculative theoretical enterprise’ (185).

Additionally, he “located the operation of morality and idealization not in the abstract entity of society, but in our everyday conduct in face-to-face-action (ibid.). The individuals play different roles adapted to the situation which they find themselves in, often depended on the type of people, and whether it is matter of private life, public life or the academic world. It is a sociological fact that we put on different roles depending on the surroundings. How we talk to our grandparents is usually not the same way we interact with our friends or online.

Certainly, it is also a known fact that we often imitate the actions of role models or idols, or adapt certain values or political opinions of the ones we respect. This mask we put on in different social environments is naturally connected to the way we wish other people to see us. This can be reflected in make-up or certain clothes, or the values, opinions or ways of behaviour. The two concepts frontstage (our appearance in a public space) and backstage (our appearance at home in a safe environment) are considered equally important, and the one cannot live without the other. Like the celebrities our identities are connected to different roles, but does this result in an unauthentic projection of the self, or is it just a natural action of the socializing human being?

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