Depends on Who’s Asking

18 Sep

I’m guessing most of you chat online, and that you commonly talk to more than one friend at once. Have you ever thought about how bizarre it is to edit your writing to match different conversations? Friend A might be in a great mood, having won the lottery, while Friend B was just dumped. To keep your friends happy, you’ll need to keep their moods straight and reply to the right person using the right tone. So every time you click back and forth between chat boxes, you need to adjust your verbiage and attitude accordingly. Or maybe you’re online, chatting away, and you need to express your own emotions in different ways: you want to discuss puppies with your best friend but want to tell your dad about something that has been stressing you out. Then, you might make one conversation full of 🙂 while the other is full of 😦  I’m sure there is some sort of technical term for this but I am going to call it tone split. Switching between conversations requires shifting your mind between different moods and behaviors. I know I have had moments where I feel almost like I’m having a personality crisis because I write something positive to Friend A and then say something rather sad to Friend B. Friend A would have no idea I even need consolation, while Friend B might think I am having the worst day ever.

And then there is what I am going to call identity split. Say you love fancy sausage and like to comment on fellow enthusiasts’ recipe blogs. But you also are very into environmentalism. You go into a nature lover’s chat room and everyone is talking about how terrible meat-eating is for the environment and you chime in. Are you confused? Are you being deceitful? Or are you simply trying to piece together different fragments of your personality? I vote for the latter. With all the ways we have to identify ourselves and affiliate ourselves with different groups, there’s bound to be some contradiction out there for some folks.

Tone split seems to have the greatest impact on the person doing the splitting. We live in a world where uni-tasking is getting rarer and rarer. We are being trained to split our time, split our attention and split our minds. But identity split has a curious effect on marketers. How do you rationalize consumers who seem to be giving off conflicting personalities? Do you believe Identity I or Identity II? How do you market to people who split themselves in so many ways? As our online world gets more complex and we have more ways to express ourselves, there is going to be a profound shift in how we project our personalities, interests and opinions. Next time you’re chatting online or browsing your favorite sites, take a moment to think about how you’d describe your own personality based on your online activity. Does it match up with who you thought you were?

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