Scott Armstrong

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Our public vs our private persona

Often what we project in public is an edited version of our private selves (or at least our private opinions).

Is this 'social editing' a hallmark of humanity?

Is it a good thing that we do this? Is it a natural human tendency that we have learned through peer pressure?

Or is it one of humanity's bigger flaws?

Is it an issue of honesty vs self-protection?

Should we risk social criticism so that we can reconcile the two and be completely open and honest in public?

Would this merely increase friction and argument or could it lead to greater acceptance of peoples' differences?

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    Jun 24 2011: The explication is quite simple if I wear the right glasses..
    We are the result of evolution. For long time we have lived in groups, small communities.. from a short time we developed the cortex and a more complex I.
    The high energy epoch (the industrial's) then made possible personal activities once impossible without the community help (and usually deserved to few privileged).
    Let me call this added development "individuality"
    So this two layers are both present and fading one into another. One is ancient, more basic and unavoidable as it is part of our specie characteristic.. The other is recent and fragile in average but very valued and interesting.
    This two layers generate the public and private persona (public mask from the greek).
    This two layers generate hypocrisy which is an adaptive mechanism to let us live in the human herd: we would like something and we do something different for the sake of cohabitation..
    In animals is visible too: dogs show a different behavior and personality if they are alone, in group or with their "owner"..
    The entire topic has it's genetic and memetic characterization. We live in a herd for very good reasons, going versus this natural lead asks for a lot of training.

    Scott, I tend to work on myself to live better and follow my aim more than community's, another person can say the opposite. U say "should we" in a herd perspective while your original question is individual's. Can see the presence of both layers in your words hence it is in your thoughts. As usual reality can't be described with black and white and similar questions doesn't grasp the point. We are in a process connected to many forces, the "double persona" configuration is an adaptive result, not a manner...

    ciao
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      Jun 24 2011: Thank you for that.

      A piece of a puzzle that has been irking me for some time just fell into place!

      I've always thought hypocrisy is some kind of defence mechanism, or at least serves a purpose as opposed to being a flaw.

      Your words have clarified that for me.

      Again, my thanks.
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      Jun 24 2011: Paolo, your wise voice is an ocean breeze..so nice to meet you and welcome to TED Conversations.

      Also known as "false self" and "true self" "False self" being our life accumulated egoic "operatings system"..we can notice it at work in rage, anger,judgment,jealousy, need, attachment, control, domination,fear,untruthfulness, pretense etc."True Self" being our inherent self, our inherent and unique talents gifts abilities, intuition,intelligence and aaalso, I think, unique way of engaging and witnessing the world and other.
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    Jun 25 2011: I am truly fascinated by the people on the site who try to establish themselves as police. They are not willing to let TED admin detect and punish anything that is off topic or which is not up to their own standards but they continually push their own agenda here on every thread. The police personality is pretty well documented in the literature and it can be a really difficult one to integrate into any group anywhere. I think the public and private personas merge in these people because they are unable to help themselves. It represents a deep sense of superiority to others.
  • Jun 25 2011: "Social Editing", I liked the word and found it to be an interesting inference.
    Its a fact that our public projections of self are edited and cultivated.This is how we have evolved over time. We lived in groups since time immemorial and the groups have evolved its code and if we choose to live in harmony we have to live by the values and principles of the group. We may be an individual but cannot gainsay the fact of interdependence and need of other people in our lives.We need them. Unedited versions of ourselves in public will disrupt our lives.
    Not be yourself may be termed as hypocrisy or repression by some but it is called control by the others.The control is essential for relationships to be sustainable not creating avoidable friction.Many things unknown to us,owing to others' social editing make our lives simpler and leave us happier and confident to lead a happy life....Being too open will lead to a lot of friction and conflicts, think about the movie Jerry Mac quire, at work place for being honest and forthright,can be a reason for your exit Or Think of the Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at George Bush at the press conference !!! What happened?
    Be Happy and choose what you want to be .You have the choice. But be prepared to face the music.
    Being Unedited is like a young liberal getting married to an old conservative....
    • Jun 25 2011: Learning to control our behaviors I find a necessity for any social order. Otherwise, the poor would be breaking into homes and killing people for shelter. However, learning physical control is one thing, while mental control is another. I'll state this here-I find yelling an event that is under the category of physical control. So as long as one can keep physical control, and be accepting and respectful of others beliefs while disputing anything about their beliefs one finds they don't believe themselves, the world would be a much better place. If not for fear of prosecution or rejection, I personally believe many more people would open up about their own beliefs and ideas, and as long as they aren't interrupting anyone, hurting anyone, or trying to force others to believe their ideas, I applaud their oppenness. Yes, we evolved into the groups and societal life we live in now. Let us continue to evolve into a world where we can listen to each others ideas, no matter how different they are than our own, and not hurt each other. Humans have not reached their peak by no means, so mental evolution should continue to exist.
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        Jun 26 2011: Katrina..how lovely..

        "Yes, we evolved into the groups and societal life we live in now. Let us continue to evolve into a world where we can listen to each others ideas, no matter how different they are than our own, and not hurt each other. Humans have not reached their peak by no means, so mental evolution should continue to exist"

        thank you for your wisdom
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      Jun 26 2011: Prashant - love that last sentence 'young liberals marrying old conservatives'.

      Katrina - agree with the yelling thing. Ever seen Albert Grossman 'managing' on behalf of Dylan. Very overbearing, obnoxious man who bulldozed over others. Effective at getting his way but not particularly inspiring.

      I'm a big believer in doing whatever it is that gets you through the night - as long as it doesn't hurt others..
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    Jun 25 2011: Very interesting topic Scott!

    I do self-censor quite a lot of things on social media, and as such portray myself.
    But we all behave differently depending on the role we take up or group we are in, aren't we?

    In that sense, we have more persona, and it is completely natural. (As other mentioned: social hierarchy, alpha status, sexual success,... play a role)

    It is not only human. It is observed in other apes and primates. As it is in other social animals.

    From game theoretic perspective, deceptive strategies are not bad (especially if accepted or not percieved). Being honest opens up for weakness towards social contempt (well, it can make you really strong too, depending on how well you handle public embarrassment)

    On the other hand, social media opened a way of being more open and honest. And if a sufficient amount of people are open, the vulnerability and true humanity will be accepted.
    I think that can help us to become more compassionate and loving: because we can be open without risk of social harm but to social support instead.

    I'd say: live by example and try how far you can be as open as possible.
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      Jun 25 2011: I think you have rather succinctly struck the nail on the head. Thanks. I was not aware this was observable in other species.
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    Jun 24 2011: I suspect we have always shown our best public face as an evolutionary strategy to attract the biggest/strongest/best mate to propagate our genes. The community used to play a role of providing a reality check for people/partners we chose to engage. More recently the changes in the nature of community (often via new technologies) and our focus on privacy have allowed our public and private personas to diverge unchecked. But I also believe we are beginning to now see a re-convergence as physical and digital communities and personas realign. I think it will be more difficult to hide behind anonymity as all our islands of identity become connected. I hope that means we will see a gradual return to more civil dialog - of course, with our best foot forward.
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      Jun 25 2011: Thank you Mark,,I like your vision of areturn to civil dialog.and a reconvergence of public and private persona

      I think you are right that the anonymity of the internet may have had as a first response an expression of the dark and shadow sides that are "checked" by the norms and standards of reallife community..at work, at school, at home, in our neighborhoods.

      I would be interested to hear you say more on where you see the light? Where you see the emerging reconvergence? My personal blog is on blogspot where you can explore other blogs "in the community". I think I see there some of what you may be pointing to..more personal blogs that are about expression of deeply held values, inspiration, thoughtful well written essays on global concerns, citizen journalism in mnay instances. Are these the trends you are pointing to in your sense of re convergence?
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    Jun 24 2011: I feel that it is more important to dive deeper and address the "direction" in which someones personality is being shown to the public. Is the person quiet and secluded in public, but more out going as their immediate peers become people they are closer with (close friends and family)? If yes, than it would appear that person is shy and unconfident with their own personality on a public level. The opposite may be true as well. An individual may be outgoing and cheerful in public, but quiet and dreary in private. This would look more like the person is putting up a barrier by making others think they are an outgoing, happy person when in fact they are depressed and feeling detached from the rest of the world on an intimate level.
    Abhiram's take on the "concentric circles, with the center at each individual" idea where certain groups within an individual's social realm can see the person's true personality while others see a fake one.
    I think one of the biggest culprits of this is adolescents. As a 20 year old, I remember high school being a time when being weird and intellectual was looked down upon so young people would show this fake persona of them trying to fit in with the rest of the crowd. Well, when you have every single kid doing this same thing, you do not have a single, legitimate persona being portrayed. And those that are get outcasted by that social group of adolescents. However, once you leave high school, it is much more noticeable that EVERYONE has a so-called weird side to them that they did not exhibit as a young person.
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      Jun 24 2011: I agree that teenage years are a bit of a minefield. I remember being incredibly unsure of what was cool and what was not. I came to the conclusion that cool = not caring (or more accurately, appearing not to care).

      Sleepless nights over what I look back on as trivial and unimportant.

      But I suppose that's why being a teen can be tough for so many - your body seems to betray you through change as well as having to suss out the often hypocritical social world of adults.

      I was a very reserved person through those years and it still takes me a while to open up around new acquaintances - which I'm sure some people interpret as being uninterested in them.
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        Jun 25 2011: Scott a gift for you from my dear friend Norman Rosten.

        My Caliban Creature, endearing monster,
        Come give me your arm
        Let’s go to the opera
        Confound the cops and those ladies
        Staring at your webbed feet
        Then to a gala place to eat!

        No,No Your island’s drowned
        Along with your wild mother
        The City zoo would take you
        But I have filed the necessary papers
        I’m adopting you friend
        Your name on my mailbox
        I swear I’ll protect you
        Venomous and scaled
        Roaring drunk
        I know the slime
        Clay and color
        Whose shape I am
        Caliban.
        (Norman Rosten)
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      Jun 25 2011: Nicely said Matt,

      A manifestation of how we end up with two selves to begin with..a private (true) self and apublic [persona. At each life stage as we encounter injustices and violence ( including bullying, emotional abuse, rodicule etc) we have to find away to move on as best we can so we create ad hoc coping strategies we adopt it into our opertaing system without every working out the or letting go of the psychic trauma that caused the adaption.

      I love your story of personal convergence to your one true self.
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    Jun 24 2011: I feel that privacy and publicity occur at different grades. Or rather, they are a set of concentric circles, with the center at each individual. The innermost circle maybe the immediate family - parents, siblings. The next circle maybe spouse, children, etc.

    I think it is a natural tendency. Who's to say this tendency is not found in other creatures? We don't understand their social organization as well as we do our own. A calf may experience and exhibit more freedom when alone. Its degree of freedom maybe reduced when it is with its mother. The freedom maybe further reduced when the calf & mother join the herd. I guess it's all about making space for oneself and others in gregarious societies.

    I don't think this is an issue of being dishonest. It's just the question of who needs to know how much about you. Most of the times, it's not just you trying to hide something aspect of your life, but it's also disinterest on the part of others to know something about you that may not concern them, or not be useful to them in any way.
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      Jun 24 2011: Well put - but wouldn't being at ease with being open with everyone be much more freeing? I shall ponder on it further.
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        Jun 24 2011: That is true - being at ease with everyone will be much more freeing. I always first try to do that when I meet someone. But it doesn't always work, does it? It's the question of being on the same "vibe". You spontaneously open up to somebody, and not to somebody else.

        There are many, many examples that contradict what I said about the concentric circles. I know some friends who confide more in me than in their parents or siblings. But there is always that unspoken assumption that I will keep it confidential.

        I guess privacy has to do with our tendency to group up. Even in friends, we tend to have different "circles" of friends, and it's an unwritten law that "what goes on in the circle, stays in the circle".
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        Jun 25 2011: @ scott isn't being at ease much more freeing.

        Yeah and frees up a lot of time and energy as well for more productive and frutful things and for forming relationships that are more deeply connected.
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    Jun 23 2011: Many layers here. In the (other than human) biological world, bacteria to insects, to animals... Mimicking either a predator or prey isn't uncommon. Not really social in nature, however it is decepiton that masks who they really are. I would say it would fit under "self-protection."

    Now honesty, risking social criticism, greater acceptance of people's differences is an animal of a different sort. If the goal is to better understand one another, in a tactful way that checks out our perceptons, I would support that. If the goal is to remain in the humanistic, self-centered vain that tells people "you have a right to believe whatever you want (without others questioning it)" I wouldn't support this.

    I can see increased understanding and tolerance of differences as a good goal. However, I do not neccessarily need to accept others. An extreme example would be talking with the leader of a hate group. I would not accept them, what they represent. For a few reasons... One, it would be a lie.. I couldn't relate this to the person. And two, I'd worrying that by implying acceptance I am implying I agree with their cause, actions, etc.

    Great topic
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      Jun 23 2011: Nicely broken down. You made some good points.

      I guess I'm getting at the private sides of ourselves that, not so much risking rejection because of extreme or unsavoury (or just plain wrong) attitudes, but more of the "this is me - be gentle" when expressing very private honesty.

      I imagine it's akin to coming out of the closet with sexual orientation, which is really baring an undeniable part of the self at the risk of incurring the negative attitudes of others.

      Also related a little to your conversation about men and communication and the limits we and society put on ourselves.

      Thanks for your thoughts.
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        Jun 24 2011: Speaking from one's own authenticty is always compelling..it is always recognized..and so much simpler..just to speak and act from your own authenticity.
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        Jun 24 2011: Simple really If we have more than one voice ( a private self and apublic self)..then we have some work to do to get to that one authentic voice.

        When we speak from that one voices..it not rings truer..but rings with a clarity that is accessible to others, meaningful to others.
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    Jun 30 2011: I am aware of my many personas/characters/archetypes, and do not percieve them as "public" or "private". I see it as a good thing, because it allows me to connect with many different people. It is not necessary to reveal all "parts" of ourselves to everyone, to be honest. We can honestly give each individual we encounter, the "part" of us that we feel is appropriate and comfortable at any given time.
  • Jun 27 2011: Great conversation starter.

    I think people might be a bit scared if they saw me walking down the street in my boxer shorts singing out of tune and eating haribo sweets....
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      • Jun 27 2011: poster boy. gosh.

        Did you see the diversity thread I put up that got shut down in the end? I don't think emails work on TED?
      • Jun 27 2011: Yes it had a bit of a funny conclusion, there was about a billion responses I had in mind; then it got shut down!!
      • Jun 27 2011: maybe if i got down to my pants and ran around the streets, eating sweets with my headphones on people would take me seriously.
      • Jun 29 2011: I just wrote some stuff on the book recommendations thread in my boxers. Lets see how its received.
      • Jun 29 2011: nightgown. gosh. you do sound old. haha.
      • Jun 29 2011: Im getting lost in the romance of victorian england with you on TED by candlelight.. the only thing that doesnt fit is the laptop!! hah
      • Jun 29 2011: Well, if you look at other threads, questions have been raised about my "civility" on more than one occasion. :)


        Maybe if I code it with modern slang it wil deceive sister Hilary? not so much undergarments and nightrobes, more boxers and other modern bedwearing technology these days! Is this going to Morocco? what sort of ungodly hour is it there?


        I shall post it via email, as the crow flies.
      • Jun 29 2011: Dearest Birdia,

        boxer shorts haribo




        Yours,Jack

        did you see the talk on crows on here? highly intelligent animals. quite interesting, its on my favourite talks. Do you think we are going slightly off topic on this thread? Its just that we have divulged into early morning Victorian era role play.....
      • Jun 29 2011: well it certainly does make the heart flutter. :) I will send you something to you're email about haribo. I wrote a letter to them. It is like "sweet" poetry. terrible pun..

        Does you're email via TED work?
      • Jun 29 2011: sent, did you receive it?
      • Jun 29 2011: weird, whats youre email? Once I've emailed you could delete it, before sister Hilary sees!
      • Jun 29 2011: maybe they are blocking email communications from me? I still can't see one... Sister Hilary is an admin worker for TED!
      • Jun 29 2011: jackdear86@googlemail.com ??? can you see my email? We probably been flagged for being to Imaginative....
      • Jun 29 2011: with your private or public persona?
      • Jun 29 2011: I think you're right. you adapt it to behave in different ways depending on who your with. Behaviour one on one, in groups, alone, with lovers , with friends, with enemies...
      • Jun 29 2011: thanks for further elaboration, in your usual stunningly articulated style. A lot of envy in comparison to the Victorian style I have.
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    Jun 26 2011: This is a fascinating topic and one that I've been pondering ever since I read a document that Paul Adams wrote when he was a user experience designer at Google (http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2).

    Essentially, he researched how people use social media and showcased how social networks like Facebook do not match the social networks we have offline (stay with me as the tie in to your identity question will soon become clear). For example, on Facebook the average user has 130 friends and the way we communicate on Facebook is broadcasting to those 130 friends equally with one social persona. In our offline world, our social circles are often grouped by what we have in common (lifestages, shared experiences, etc) - so we lean into the side of our identity that best meets that relationship and how close we are to that person/group (strong/weak/temporary). Paul points out that there is not one single social profile that fits for all the people in our life. Unlike our offline world where managing our identity is relative easy as the different groups in our life rarely overlap in time/space, managing identity online is much harder as groups can easily overlap. Thus, he feels there's an opportunity to use digital enablers to make it easier for consumers to manage their identity across groups. Ok, I just summarized 224 slides so I hope I did Paul justice. Interesting to note is that Paul now works at Facebook :)

    His work has inspired me greatly and made me ask many of the questions you originally posed. I'm a believer that we are multifaceted human beings that tailor the slices of our identity based on who we are connecting with and how close we are to them. I'm excited to continue to watch how the next 5 years will evolve our thinking from social networks to social circles and what this means for our portable identity that follows them.
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      Jun 27 2011: I'm glad others have already been considering these issues.

      I've always thought that we humans practice social hypocrisy - it's the wrong word - too negative and not expressing what I mean very effectively (it does elicit responses, though).

      I've since read a bit about cognitive dissonance - believing two conflicting ideas at once, thinking and doing conflicting things - but I think we have greater capacity to deal with this than we think.

      I wonder how social networking will affect this ability - improve it or reduce our capability to accept conflicting concepts. It's somewhere within this that harmony can be found, I believe.

      Age of Aquarius - dare I say it..?
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        Jun 29 2011: FYI - Google released more information about it's social circle efforts today. If you're interested, check out http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/
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        Jun 29 2011: Scott,

        Isn't cognitive dissonance a natural part f personal growth and evolution. It means usually dosen't it that we are at a sort of threshold. ( Or are you suggesting that cognitive dissonance is something we just acarry around all the time andnever sort out?)

        Rumi hasa wonderfl poem about that . It says more or less..make a list of the things that make you happy. If any two things on the list are in conflict you will never be happy.
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          Jun 29 2011: I think you're right, it's learning to reconcile the two conflicting things, or shed the old skin, if you like that indicates growth of some kind or other.

          I don't think it's an unfortunate default state from just existing.

          Ignorance is bliss, I guess, although there's no opportunity for progression or enlightenment.
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      Jun 29 2011: Maureen,

      An interesting point. Yes in real life we manage these separate aspects of ourselves ( not necessarily separate personas) rather easily because each individual or group is about one or more of these aspects of self. That partioninig of our social lives allows us to go deeply into these various dimensions of the "full persona" Would you say, Maureen, that the overlap you are referring to in social networking, and the" fillter bubble" referred to in the TED talk tend to homogenize connections , or plae them at a more superficial level that real life connections? And would you agree that it is posisble with a little work to actually use the internet outside of "social networking" to actually go much deeper into expressions of self than is possible in "real life"?
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      Jun 26 2011: I think there's truth in that statement.

      A lot of us like to think we don't care what others think or say (about us) but I suppose it's a part of what helps us define ourselves and so it's difficult not to be concerned about other peoples' opinions.
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    Jun 25 2011: I would say that to some degree the practice of maintaining a public persona that is not necessarily identical to the private persona is not unhealthy and can greatly promote social harmony. To attempt to unite the two with absolution is a kind of grasping for extremities, in my view. We don't need to be as persistent and constant as a mathematical concept. We are living, changing beings that change and adapt to suit our ever-changing environment and variety of situational conditions (social, psychological, etc).
    The public and private personas can be maintained as two separate sets of ideas that are not necessarily congruent at all times.
    That being said, there are certainly times where one should risk compromising the good of social harmony to do away with some heinous or unsustainable sort of behavior.

    To the last question, I have found that those of my friends who are currently in a struggle to be consistently that 'same person' with as few stipulations as they can have been subject to increased tensions in their social interactions and they don't seem to benefit much from having done so.
    Furthermore, if we're already, somewhat naturally, tending to carry on as we are, what's wrong with it? Social patterns and sets of behaviors often emerge for a reason; often for good and advantageous reasons.
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      Jun 25 2011: Clearly stated. Between your and Christophe's reply's, I feel I have a clearer understanding with regards to our 'masks' and the reasons why we wear them. My thanks.
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          Jun 26 2011: It's posed, I admit. I had just got a new phone and was mucking around with the effects. I'm more egoist than photographer so I made myself the subject.

          The cigar is actually a bier-stick - mini salami.

          The glasses are real - I can't see $#!% without them.
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          Jun 26 2011: Great portrait!!
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          Jun 26 2011: The fact that I appear one-eyed - I wonder if that was subconscious..?
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          Jun 27 2011: Scott One eyed

          Artistic instinct..good one too..
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    Jun 24 2011: I somehow think of social expectation and how much you want to meet it in public.Is it an issue of honesty?i tend to think no...it depends on how different of what you say in public varies from what actually it is in head.and the edited image is still a part of us.

    I think one can be completely open and honest in public but do one want to be like ?that is another case.

    P.S. those are good questions
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    Jun 24 2011: Well privacy is somewhat of a recent idea. Most of human history people live in such close proximity to each other that they would have no way of keeping secrets. Many people live this way and the introduction of the internet doesn't change much in that regard. It just makes communication easier, and more practical for long distance. Living on a planet of diminishing space and resources will shrink privacy as fast as any technology. I myself will miss privacy, but over all I think it will be better. So many problems are caused because people are allowed to be as neurotic as they want to be.
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      Jun 24 2011: I don't think it will change privacy. Anonymity is a different story..
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        Jun 24 2011: Well the net is making us all a bit anonymous, which I can't see much good coming from, aside from activist living repressive regimes who use it as a way to stay alive. Other than that it just seem to diminish a persons power and responsibility. Any time one read an comments board where users do not have to register they can see this. Most people say something dumb and offensive not necessarily because they are crude, but because without a person to back up the words it is quite meaningless. In some ways we are more private now as we spend more times by ourselves than any of our ancestors did.
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    Jun 30 2011: May not have a chance later, Scott..just wanted to thank you for being a great moderator on a very interesting question. A Pleasure, as always.
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    Jun 27 2011: I think having mulitple personas is too taxing. As I have grown and studied and fallen down and scaped my knees on life, I have found it far easier to be just one consistent person. I work to be as mask-less as I can be. We are all good at hiding from ourselves but in as much as it is within any of us to live authentically and even transparently I think that's the way to go.
    I used to tell my kids that you can tell more about a person by the way s/he treats the janitor in the building than you can tell from the way they treat the president of the company. I like old Addicus Finch. I think he was the same guy to everyone. (If you don't mind a literary reference),
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        Jun 30 2011: From all the deleting below it looks like I missed something eventful!
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    Jun 27 2011: Our public vs. private persona... Great topic!

    As very young children we show little difference between our public and private personas. As we grow we become more socialized/socially complex and begin to grow many, many personas that are in response to the people we meet.

    It reminds me of an observation made once about Bill Clinton that, when he was in a roomful of people, he was able to give each one of them a sense that they were the most important person in that room. Very empowering, charismatic persona!!! in my opinion, that is the ultimate in public persona.

    But I find I have many public personas:
    One for men I don't know
    One for women I don't know
    One for men I know
    One for women I know
    One for colleauges
    One for TED conversations

    And on and on...

    My private persona also has a number of incarnations, though not nearly as many as my public.


    All together they are me, much like a picasso painting.

    TS Eliot wrote:

    "There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet"
  • Jun 25 2011: It is a good thing that people at a TED event behave differently depending on whether they are the speaker or a member of the audience.
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      Jun 25 2011: It is hard to say we all have one personality of identity. Every time we are with some one new or with other person we know we are some one different. we are a reflection of our environment so who's to say we are one persona. every day we are some one new and all we can do is be who we think we are, but that will change everyday, every moment. We live in a ephemeral being which does not necessary have any conclusion or permanent state. We work and try to know ourselves but as TED has proven to me that we can only have temporary conclusions and must readapt ourselves rapidly or we will fall out of the collective conscious. If we do not share we will lose our ability to grow together and take care what is most valuable to collective reality.
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    Jun 24 2011: One of the things that I've consistantly found troubling is the tendency on public discussion fora to very often devolve into our worst selves; bigotry spewing, profane, narrow-minded idiots. I think that so often it's the equation Anonymity +Absence= Arrogance. I'm not saying this happens to everyone or to every discussion forum; just enough that I dispair for our common humanity and often enough that I am genuinely and pleasantly surprised when it doesn't occur.
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      Jun 24 2011: I admit, I was quite surprised to see a lot of posts removed from TED that have obviously devolved into personal, petty attacks.

      I think you're right regarding the anonymity element - if a person isn't prepared to put their name to their petty statements, they are cowards.
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      Jun 25 2011: Michael ,Scot, Mark,

      Do you think to some extent the personal petty attacks, defensive and accusatory language that has been graffitied all through TED conversations..much of it with the persons real identity and photo very much on display, isn't just a culture of bad banners and ignorance spilling overbut an inevitable step in the re-convergence Mark Mullen s pointing to above?

      .The initial visceral reaction to ideas, values and standards that are outside what has been cultivated in social networking communities, that challenge what they came to this public forum thinking was cool and "TED" like.,is a challenge to personal identity

      .What will come of that in this community remains to be seen. It is a bold social experiment. The global conversation enviosned is that reconvergence in a forum that serves life, that serves humanity.

      I don't see it yet. In fact I see TED Conversations as challenged with " cultural grafitti" . It's not clear what will happen .At the moment it is turning away many serious and intelligent commenters who scan the offerings and contributions and see them as raw & toxic. Looking back I can see tha TED Converstaions has lost many very brilliant commenters and that their observations on this TED Toxicity was publicly discussed and apparently a reason why we no longer have these voices here

      .But, as far as I know, there is no other place which affords a hope of the reconvergence . It's the inverse of what we have been talking about..it's the meme centered, psuedo inellectual personas manufactured by the initial divergence being "out in publlic", expecting to shine, and being challenged, having to re think what their constructed self is based on , whether that is a serviceable model in a global community..
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        Jun 26 2011: Hey Lindsay.

        I think it's possibly a case of people not having decent argument skills and regressing to personal attacks because their ego has been bruised.

        I would hope that the nature of social networks would help with this as there is a chance to cool down and respond intellectually rather than emotionally.

        It takes constant work to do that though and it's easy to slip up. That's where sincere apology and forgiveness have a place, I guess.
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      Jun 23 2011: Thanks Birdia - you are a font of wise links..
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          Jun 27 2011: Thank You. For putting me onto 'gaze'.

          Myth and traditional tales can help us with cracking that chestnut, I think.

          Is that the dilemma, then, facing the enlightened age? Figuring out how to become again?
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          Jun 28 2011: I think Gaze addresses a part of how we define ourselves.

          This is what I think most of us spend our lives doing - explicitly or not. I think we also exist, or are partly defined, through our own gaze turned inwards which can be as destructive as it is creative.

          This, and a couple of other recent TED discussions I've chucked 2 cents into recently have helped me focus and redefine some of the issues plaguing me.

          Art and Philosophy are my Science and Religion!