Be Careful of Who You Pretend to Be
"Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.
Some are satin, some are steel,
Some are silk and some are leather.
They're the faces of a stranger,
But we love to try them on."
— Billy Joel
For the most part, we all wear masks.
The mask of the co-worker, sibling, son or daughter, father or mother, lover or friend, confidant or betrayer. It's hardwired into the social contract. In order to get along with our fellow man, we wear masks to hide that part of ourselves we don't want anyone else to see. It is, in fact, a part of the lubricant that keeps the societal machine running smoothly.
For the most part, the masks we wear do not hide serial killers. They do hide irrational anger, inappropriate lust, overripe envy.
They hide our Id Unleashed side. It is not acceptable to pick your toenails or nose at work or in a restaurant but you do not hesitate to do so in the privacy of your own home. It is not acceptable to absent-mindedly stroke your genitals in public, but you think nothing of casually getting yourself off while watching TV in bed. The mask we wear online — in Faceborg Status Land or Twitter Feedopolis — is generally either much rosier or much more dramatic than our actual, in reality, for real lives are.
Which means that, at any given moment, we are surrounded by people hiding something essential about themselves from everyone else. It is natural to assume, given our very own set of masks, that everyone else is wearing one all the time. But the moments that jack things up, that make life just a bit more interesting, is when someone lets the mask he is wearing slip. Loses a bit of that tight-gripped control. We see the person underneath and it thrills us watching a drunk woman freak out at a drive up window and go apeshit because her Chicken McNuggets didn't come with that plastic packet of Sweet and Sour puke. We can't take our eyes off of the overwhelming and unguarded joy of a man asking his spouse to marry him and her completely unmasked reaction. We are both horrified and fascinated when some asshole calls the police on someone for being black.
For the most part, all the world is, in fact, a stage.
Which makes Life Among Individuals Easier but Living Among People much more difficult. Wearing a mask for your mother when you visit is a strain. It prevents a vulnerability. It is a guarded feeling; a trapped in your own invented persona feeling. The more masks you wear, the harder it is to relax and become your real self. Your masks begin to hide masks underneath until distinguishing who you are in public from who you are is virtually impossible.
How many masks does someone like Putin wear? Trump? McConnell? What about your heroes? Is there merit in secrets of personality or are we better off knowing everything about one another and hoping we don't all get framing hammers and enact a real life version of the Purge? Reddit is the ultimate mask, allowing anyone to troll and hate openly without consequence — are we OK with that?
For the most part, we all wear masks. Some for social grace, some for protection, some for fun.
The questions to answer are what are your masks and what do they hide? And, if you dare, can you take them all off and suffer the slings and arrows of those who simply think that your unguarded, naked self is just another mask?