Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Are All Social Actors

We're all familiar, I'm sure, with the Shakespeare verses that read All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts, so let me not quote them here.
Society oftentimes - if not always - requires us to behave, speak, walk, or dress according to certain conventions. Sometimes we're lucky and those conventions allow us to express who we are without having to censor or repress the interesting sides of our personality; sometimes, though, we can't fully be ourselves, or, let's say, we need to moderate our self.

It's not necessary to think of "huge" events such as public speeches, gala parties, or presidential dinners when referring to a social context. A first date, for example, will do.
Can we really say we are being ourselves on a first date? Speaking for myself, yes, I am being myself. Of course, I am not fully being myself, in the sense that it is in the best interest of my intentions to show my date the most pleasing side of me first; so, I try to coherently convey my personality in a more charming, dim-lit, and vibrant way. But mind, this doesn't mean I'm lying or giving a distorted image of me. Maybe some people do; I don't.
Same goes for a job interview: we dress up in ways we wouldn't normally do and, during the event, we probably speak with a pitched voice or find other ways to impress our possible employer.

Sometimes I smirk when people ask me, "You're an actor, how do I know you're not acting?". My favorite answer is, "Why, are you not acting now?".
Personally, the best actors I've seen - and the "best" liars, and the "best" fakers too - were not in the movies or on the stage, but in real life contexts and - marvel of all marvels - they were not professional actors, in a manner of speaking.

The bottom line is, we all act, even if we're not always aware of it.
I don't think it is a bad thing per se; social acting should mean to me conveying our personality through forms that enhance its qualities according to the context we're in. Certainly, like for everything, the proper balance is required and certain lines should not be crossed.
Then, if social acting robs us of our spontaneity or it simply means lying, that is a totally different story.

Do you consider yourself an actor in life?
Do you think social acting limits the expression of your personality or it's a good tool to enhance it?



  1. Hello Jacopo, I totally agree about the best liars' great acting possibilities and potential. Or some people who are expressing themselves always as like they are on the stage, though in the limelight they can get "lost" .. Regards, Bogdana

  2. Hey, Jay! Well, I'm not sure how much I act in real life, but it's certainly been true as I rehearse for a play that I find myself acting the role 24/7. In my current play I'm a 1935 British socialite, so everyone - including my dogs - are now being called "darling" in my booming stage voice. Rather funny that! Kay

  3. The bell would ring. I would open the classroom door. And become a different person. Every day. Every bell. The pavlovian psyche.

  4. I think we are all actors to a certain extent. Depending on your line of work, some might be more so than others (teachers, speakers, etc) How many of us put on a different persona on a day to day basis to deal with some of life's situations? If you wake up having a bad day, don't you do some "internal acting" to turn things around? I know I do!

  5. What a fascinating post... you always come up with great topics, Jay. Yes, I agree that we all act in some way or another. For me, I suppose I put on an "act" when I'm online sometimes... where I flip into my online persona... I'm not nearly as bubbly in real life as I am online, lol. :D

  6. Great article, Jay. I never really thought about it, but, yes, I modify my behavior to produce the result I want in certain situations.

  7. Over the years I’ve tried more than anything to act neutral, unreadable, so as not to seem to disagree with anybody, or to leave myself open to criticism/ridicule/whatever. This hasn’t been a healthy strategy at all for affirming my own identity, and I haven’t been very good at it either—offending people anyway, by seeming to patronize; and apparently indicating my real feelings by telltale facial expressions or body language. Much better just to come out and be oneself, I agree. (Easier said than done!) I love your description “charming, dim-lit, and vibrant.”

  8. This is a great post, Jay. And yes, I do see myself as an actor, though I don't see it as fake at all. There are different parts of my personality that just take the stage at the appropriate times. For instance, I behave differently at work. I don't curse or vent while I'm there. I'm much more casual with my family Though even with them, I'm slightly different with my mom, sister, and husband. Again, I see it all as "me". I'm just a shape-shifter, I guess. Thanks for the great post, and your thoughts on the matter.

  9. I totally agree, Jay. We're all social actors and if someone says he/she's not, I think they're lying through their teeth. Every day we encounter situations where we have to act whether we want to or not and whether we do it consciously or not. When we go to interviews, we have to behave a certain way, when we go to a social event, we act differently. At home, I believe, we are our true selves. So yes, I am an unpaid actress, unfortunately, but I do a good job at it. :D

  10. Hi Bogdana,
    Unfortunately (or fortunately), you don't need to be a professional actor to be a good liar. I know, many actors can't draw a distinction between life and stage work. Well, too bad!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Congratulations on your play! Your first play! Enjoy the feeling till the end!
    I also used to be in character when my girlfriend was around and I was preparing a character. It was fun, although I'm not sure how much fun it was for her!
    Thank you visiting!

    Hi Mike,
    It's not at all surprising. I also turn into a different person, a totally different person when I teach!
    Great, I'm not the only one!
    Have a great weekend!

    Hello Heather,
    It happens sometimes I wake up in a bad mood and it takes a lot of concentration to change it into a bright and sunshine day! But I have to, for the sake of my co-workers' good mood and disposition, for the sake of my role, of my character, and of the show! That is one of the challenges of being an actor, and of being anything I suppose! When I teach and I'm in a bad mood, so much in a bad mood I can't help it, I just say I have a terrible headache and can't really speak too loud ;) It works!

    Thank you, Morgan, I'm glad you enjoyed my post!
    So you have an online and an offline persona? Great!
    Me too, I guess! It's so much easier to be social online!
    Thank you for your comment!

    Thanks for stopping by! Glad to know you're an actor too! Welcome to the club!

    Dear Christie,
    There was a time, when I was much younger, when I also tried to be neutral. But I realized I wasn't really being myself; and I'm afraid it was so boring!
    I'm glad you're back to being yourself!
    About being charming, dim-lit, and vibrant, I try my best to be that, but, oh, I'm not really sure I'm always successful!
    Have a nice weekend!

  11. Dear Raquel,
    I totally concur, acting doesn't mean lying. All we do is playing the role of ourselves. Like you said, we do it in different ways and modes according to the context! I would never want myself to be just one way!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Hi Claudia!
    You can say it out loud: who says they're not are merely lying (or maybe just talking about something else!)
    Well, you're not so unpaid when your employer calls you and says, "You're in!".
    Thanks for commenting! Enjoy your weekend!

  12. I've been doing some interviews, my gosh I'm deceitful. My wife says I hornswaggled her. I did get the better deal.

  13. This is a very interesting and thought provoking post. I am a lawyer so we are always told that we are only acting in front of a jury. I suppose it is true. I read a writer's craft book not long ago that emphasized that as writers we cannot succeed in having our readers truly feel the emotions we are portraying until we learn to unmask the many faces we put on (acting) for the world to see.

  14. Hey Jay,
    Great post and very thought-provoking. I know some really 'confident' people and the more I learn about them, the more I realise that they are just as insecure as anyone. A new belief of mine is that whenever there is something I want/need to do that terrifies me, I just fake it till I make it. If I act as if I'm not scared then eventually my mind will catch up with it. It still comes from a genuine place but a tool I use to push through fear.

  15. Gosh when put this way, yes I am a social actor and hide behind many many many masks!! Even I get confused as to who I am really! I hide things very deeply inside of me, I forget they're there!

    Oooh I feel all profound now! Thank you! Take care

  16. Dan,
    You're so funny!! Well, I suppose we all deceive our prospective wives in some ways on our first date!
    Thanks for adding a bit of humor!

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for adding your view on the matter. I guess as a lawyer you pay extra care to the way you address the jury, to the way you communicate, you move your body, and to your general bearing, in order to communicate your message in a more powerful and convincing way.
    Thanks for sharing your thought!

    Hey Jeff,
    Thank you!
    You're so right, I also think that self-confidence rises from the self-induced belief that we can make it and that nothing can stop us. I like your pointing out that it still come from a genuine place, but the tool you use pushes through fear.
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Of course you're a social actor too!! Who's not? :)
    Hiding is okay and if you forget, that's fine, they come back out by themselves anyway; but, oh, don't repress! Never repress!
    I'm happy you enjoyed my post.
    Thanks for commenting :)