Peacock Feathers

One of the main reasons I don’t particularly like mixing groups of friends is probably the same reason as most people don’t like their ex-partners exchanging notes: it’s all down to the idea that sooner or later I’ll get ‘found out’.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I can be a Janus-faced phony and it’s difficult to keep track of all the white lies I’ve told people. When social groups mix, they’ll assuredly discover the truth about me: that I’m a lazy, self-satisfied, underachieving, inconsistent, fraudulent sub-bourgeois.

Most of the lies I tell people are far from outrageous: merely half-true anecdotes to make them laugh, to psychophilanthropically stroke their egos or to hide the fact that I think they are assholes (my fear of confrontation means that I never tell anyone I dislike them). But there are other times I come out with things that are simply by way of making me look cool or to amuse myself. I even once, during a rather naff party, told a guy that I was a magician before wowing him a couple of rudimentary card tricks. I’d be an excellent confidence trickster but alas my lying is a fairly ethical one designed only for making people comfortable in my presence rather than allowing them to suffer full brunt of the intrinsic perversions and untruths and infidelities and mundanities.

As a follow-up to Thursday’s post concerning livejournal interests lists, I shall today move for further discussion on the topic of online identity. How do people want to be perceived online? Is displaying an online facia through avatars and signatures and interests lists much different to my own personal real-world bullshittery? Is it what calls “peacock feathers” or is it a symptom of modern life’s tendency to produce alienated, self-conscious, easily bruised idiots?

A good way of looking at how people want themselves to be perceived is by doing a quick search on flickr for images tagged with “me” or “self portrait”. What you get is a massive stream of digital photographs of average-looking people trying to portay themselves in a superior light or trying to conceal their various dirty truths: their vulnerability, the averageness, their wrong-headedness, the fact that they never buy a decent newspaper.

There are loads of types of self portrait on flickr and very few of them are “honest”. They all present people who are more interesting, sexy, intelligent, mysterious that the person taking the photograph. Either they are partially hiding their faces, being photographed through some other object so as to distort the final image, or they have ‘adjusted themselves’ in post-production by making themselves black-and-white or adding layers of psychedelic colour.

Maybe the reason for all of these cloaking techniques lies in the media-specific: that there is still some trepidation over the Internet; that it is the realm of perverts and paedophiles and nerds and lonely people who will wank off to your photograph. Or worse!

Or perhaps its down to the fact that people are complex cocktails of conflicting desires and paradoxical beliefs and if TV teaches us anything it’s that people should be 2D – that there should be a “Billness” of Bill or a “Lucyness” of Lucy – and that the inconsistent personality should be kept under wraps.

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