As social beings, we adapt our communication to the situation at hand — the “context”.
If you’re a 25 year old student attending University, then you probably talk about different topics, use a different vocabulary, phrase yourself differently and in general behave differently in these situations:
- A thanksgiving dinner with your parents, siblings and grandparents.
- A pub-crawl with friends your own age that you study with.
- A private conversation with a small handful of close friends of yours.
- A political meeting discussing policy in a political party you’re a member of.
- Colleagues and/or bosses that you talk to during your part-time job.
Context collapse is what happens when all these widely different social contexts all collide.
If you share something on Facebook with the default “Friends” setting, then you’re effectively sharing it with ALL of the groups above and more. Your different contexts have collapsed and become one; and you might find that you don’t have a lot to say that you’d really like to share with ALL of these people.
You said interviews for the press tour of your first movie inspired this one.
When you’re traveling with a film for the first time, it’s incredibly surreal. You are building this persona and performing this version of yourself that becomes a media self that has its own weird life without you.
What’s the relationship between you right now talking to me and who you are?
An interview is an incredibly artificial and strange interaction. I don’t mind interviews, but obviously neither of us are behaving like people right now. We wouldn’t be talking like this if we met at a bar. We’re performing ourselves. On the other hand, I don’t believe that beneath the surface you can ever get to the point where you ever actually are yourself. There’s an internal performance that we all engage with in a day-to-day way and a performance for other people. Neither are real. It’s all performance.
If life is all performance, does that mean it’s less about searching for who you are than discovering the character that fits?
I think so. I think we’re constantly building ourselves, and the issue is who we are reflexively can be out of sync with our self-perception — and who we are is very much decided by our environment and outside forces.
Brandon Cronenberg Will Now Perform an Interview
The director of the provocative horror film “Possessor Uncut” argues that none of us are ever truly ourselves: “There’s an internal performance that we all engage with.”
Wolfe adopted wearing a white suit as a trademark in 1962. He bought his first white suit, planning to wear it in the summer, in the style of Southern gentlemen. He found that the suit he’d bought was too heavy for summer use, so he wore it in winter, which created a sensation. At the time, white suits were supposed to be reserved for summer wear. Wolfe maintained this as a trademark. He sometimes accompanied it with a white tie, white homburg hat, and two-tone spectator shoes. Wolfe said that the outfit disarmed the people he observed, making him, in their eyes, “a man from Mars, the man who didn’t know anything and was eager to know.”
Werner Herzog’s Yelp Review for Trader Joe’s on Hyperion:
Madness reigns. The first challenge your soul must endure is the parking lot. You wait with your vehicle half blocking traffic, creating a perfect circular vortex of anger that encompasses the street and the entrance to the store. Once you attain access to the lot, you discover that this is a false achievement; other motorists stop and start with no apparent thought or plan— turns once begun are quickly abandoned, the drivers seemingly immune to geometry. At last a space opens up, but the price is having to enter the store. Inside, human beings scramble like beetles whose rock has been upended. Though the aisles are wide it is impossible to avoid physical contact with your fellow shoppers. It is a grotesque parody of the bazaar at Marrakech, as if dumb animals had been granted only the amount of sentience required to mock humanity. The aisles are not labeled. You must search for every item. The constant walking up and down causes a numbness that borders on profound despair. Your conscious mind registers merely annoyance, impatience. But on a cellular level, your body cries out in weariness. The fatigue you feel is a warning: millions of years of evolution trying to save you from becoming mired in the tar, from sinking into the warm blackness and ultimately being reclaimed by the earth itself.
Be sure to get the dark chocolate peanut butter cups, they are right by the register.
SPIEGEL: On the board, Mischel drew three circles. The first represented personality – your traits, your temperament. Then he drew a second circle.
MISCHEL: Here are the situations, OK?
SPIEGEL: But in between the two, Mischel drew a third circle. This, he said, poking the board, is your mind – that wonderful, curious thing that houses all kinds of invisible stuff.
MISCHEL: Like your expectations, your stable expectations about what happens if you do certain things. It has entered your way of construing or seeing or framing or depicting different situations. So when I’m in a large group, do I feel terrified because it’s a scary situation? Or when I’m in a large group, do I see it as a challenge because here’s an opportunity to really reach a lot of people?
SPIEGEL: All this stuff in your mind – these beliefs, assumptions, expectations that you’ve gotten from your friends, your family, your culture – those things, Mischel explained, are the filter through which you see the world. Your mind stands between who you are, your personality and whatever situation you’re in and profoundly influences how your brain interprets the world around it. Those beliefs, expectations, assumptions – they direct what your mind pays attention to quite literally – even what it physically sees in a situation and how it feels about what it sees.
And so when the stuff inside the mind changes, people change. They begin to interpret their situations differently or themselves differently, and so situations act on them differently.
MISCHEL: People can use their wonderful brains to think differently about situations, to reframe them, to reconstrue them, to even reconstrue themselves.
SPIEGEL: This is why Mischel sees people as fundamentally flexible. He tells me that is the single most important thing that he has stood for in his whole professional life.
MISCHEL: What my life has been about is in showing the potential for human beings to not be the victims of their biographies – not their biological biographies, not their social biographies – and to show, in great detail, the many ways in which people can change what they become and how they think.
The Personality Myth, Invisibilia
“Even though I was very shy, I found I could get onstage if I had a new identity.”
– David Bowie
“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”
“Who the fuck are you?”
– The Who
“If you understood everything I said, you’d be me”
– Miles Davis
“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”
– Alan Watts
I’m really blessed to be a parent, and watching my children grow, I really firmly believe that you’re born with a temperament and you’re wired a certain way, and you don’t have any say about it, and there’s no changing it. All you can do is learn to recognize it and own it. And some of us are born with temperaments that are positive, some are negative. But a major threshold is passed when you mature enough to acknowledge what drives you and to take the wheel and steer it. As parents, you’re always learning who your children are. They’re learning who they are. And you’re still learning who you are. So we’re all learning all the time. And that’s why change is fundamental in story. If things go static, stories die, because life is never static.
The self that dies is radically separate, not only from the material world but also from other selves. My consciousness is essentially private; I cannot directly experience the mind of another. I may know everything public about another conscious being, but I cannot experience being that other. Knowing from direct experience is one thing, and knowing about, from an outside perspective, is quite another. Mortality therefore entails unspeakable loneliness.
Itself a narrativized apothegm, Tolstoy’s novella contains several of his most-cited lines. Ivan Ilych has lived as if his public role exhausted his identity, but in his mortal illness he discovers the private self, inaccessible from the outside, that he has overlooked. He senses with horror that his role will go on but his “I” will die.
None of us can really grasp this fact, but for Ivan Ilych it is all the more terrible because he is losing the self just as he realizes he has it. He has thought of himself as his “place” (mesto), a word that means not only physical location but also job (position) and social role (place in society). He has assiduously avoided doing anything “inappropriate” (literally, out of place). But the self is not a place, and so he has missed it until, when dying, he recognizes that besides what is here and now, there is something else.
What Ivan Ilych takes to be the glory of his life, his amazing ability to “fit in” with others, depends on a “virtuoso” erasure of self. But as he will learn, nothing can be worse than success in such a venture. That is the meaning of the frequently cited apothegm that begins Chapter 2: Ivan Ilych’s life was the most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible. (GSW, 255)
Morson, Gary. The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel
“No experience is in itself a cause of success or failure,” he wrote in his 1931 book, What Life Could Mean to You. “We are not determined by our experiences, but are self-determined by the meaning we give to them; and when we take particular experiences as the basis for our future life, we are almost certain to be misguided to some degree. Meanings are not determined by situations. We determine ourselves by the meanings we ascribe to situations.”