With the advent of Social Media and, in particular, Twitter, an apparently new phenomenon has arisen where people project and embody multiple personalities. It can often be disconcerting to the new tweeter, who can’t help feeling like they are in a hall of mirrors with a thousand faces laughing at them trying to twist their pale innocent arm by duplicitous means. However, after immersing oneself in the twitterverse for a short period of time, the benefits of Multiple Tweeter Syndrome quickly become apparent.
Firstly, having multiple accounts allows for you to have multiple sets of followers/followees, with each set enjoying a particular interest. This means that you can pick and choose the sort of tweets you want to read and it helps you easily navigate to the information you feel like discovering. What happens next, however, is that when you tweet, you suddenly become consciously aware of the audience to which you are tweeting. Indeed, if you want to build up your sports-fans twitter stream, then you better start tweeting about the latest sports scores and the blatant red card. Likewise, your steam of angst filled poets don’t want to hear about Man United’s away streak, but they’d be keen on hearing your thoughts on Spring, mashed into a delicate Haiku.
Soon you are carefully selecting from an array of different accounts when you feel the need to shout out to the world. You make friends amongst some of your followers and you, naturally, keep projecting your carefully filtered persona towards them. This appears to scare some onlookers. Why would you have more than one online personality? How can you be more than one person? Is this not an example of the anonymity of the internet bringing more deceit into the world?
These questions are all derived from one common misunderstanding. That is, that this is new behaviour and in some way unique to the online world. The compartmentalising, categorising, and segregating of parts of our personality is as natural as moving ones fingers independently. Think about what you say and do at work, compared to when you are at home with your spouse or significant other. Then compare both of those personalities that you project to the person you are down the pub with your closest and oldest friends? Do you go to the gym? Well, I’m sure you don’t talk to the people at the gym about the same things you talk to your lover about? We all embody different characters when we are with different sets of people. We all occupy different personalities because that is what being part of a group is about. If anything MTS has simply brought this phenomenon further out into the light, it certainly didn’t create it.
However, there is a deeper question here. What impact does this practice have on our philosophical thoughts of Personal Identity, if any? Can we be the same person in each of these different situations? Is there a thread of ‘me’ that runs through every character? If so, how does that thread manifest itself? If not, how does one personality relate to another? These are not new questions, but in stark light of twitter they are once again starting to feel important.
What do you think? And which ‘you’ is doing the thinking?