I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine. Our conversation wandered over the typical topics, religion, confidence, image… but most importantly, we had an interesting back and forth on social perception, the development of persona, and the maintenance of a public image. I wanted to share some of my thoughts in retrospect.

For me perception is an important facet of human social development. Creating a persona, and matching what is socially viable with what is honest and true to your own individuality is a lifelong process that presents each original consciousness with a difficult series of choices.

Personal choices, image, persona, individuality, and social interaction are all complex learned behaviors. As we grow, we learn which actions are acceptable to the community in which we belong. Our culture, tradition, and heritage help define our own belief and growth. Through this communal development, we as individuals begin to experiment. We push our social boundaries, learning where the line is, and evaluating the cost of crossing those social norms, or the benefits of living within them. Sometimes these learning experiences can be socially disastrous. If you enter into a situation without proper background, and without the proper, constantly evolving, criteria, you can be socially ostracized – the lesson learned may come at too high a price.

Social interaction is a series of transactions, an equal equation of give and take. Like mathematics, the formula must be innately learned and imprinted from birth. What is so fascinating but also infinitely complex, is that each community, each sub grouping of humanity within a population, teaches slightly different mathematics, different equations leading toward the same proof. These differences, nuances if you will, in the social structure create individuality and originality within any population or culture. To a point, they can be divided and isolated down to a very small level. A communal family, a religious group, an ethnic group, a socio-economic tier, a geographic preference, each of these creates variances in social development and equations.
As we grow and develop, explore and experience, our understanding of these interactions grows, but its not until we begin to question them that we start recognizing our own variables. How we adapt, how we interact in order to fit in, the games we play and the consequences they carry.

We encounter other evidence, like the Karpman Drama Triangle, and Transactional analysis (a great demonstration and explanation of these concepts are done by Alvyn Freed, and Eric Berne). We begin to understand the basic simplistic interactions that combine and build to create a constantly increasing complexity in our relationships. The need for a Victim, a Rescuer, and a Protagonist, is a common game played in social interactions to share information, elicit strokes, and develop relationships – however, this type of attention seeking often carries negative baggage. In his book on transactional games, Eric Berne identifies the use of the Karpman Triangle in, why don’t you/yes but, if it weren’t for you, see what you made me do, look how hard I’ve tried, let’s you and him fight… and others. The games create co dependency and validate needs on both parts by offering strokes. They can also be used to avoid difficult solutions, giving a social outlet to avoiding internal change/development.

As our conversation proceeded, we continued to discuss the reasons behind the development and maintenance of a public persona. We also touched on how we as individuals are responsible for how we are perceived. We brushed on the topic of situational awareness. Specifically how each interaction is a new beginning, an original equation, which we ourselves write and are in total command of. From this, we introduced personal responsibility and the need to remain in control and stay aware of the developments within the transaction. It is very difficult, and for added clarity in this post, I will borrow from another similar conversation I had just last night.

In it, I postulated that a person is whom they choose to be. That we are representations of what we choose to demonstrate to the world, intentional or not. We create our image; we create our persona knowing that it will cause a reaction. Our representation is a conscious and subconscious result of premeditated understanding of social perception. We create the persona we want others to encounter.

At times, we slip into the victim role, feeling that the world is insurmountable, yet in reality, we have control of ourselves. Because individuals can control themselves, and rationally break down a situation, they are in control of the most important variable in any interaction, their own consciousness. Your mind, feelings, beliefs, and most importantly actions are exactly that. Yours. If you choose to spend time improving yourself, working to become aware of these variables, taking control of your thoughts and understanding where they come from and how they have developed, then your life is yours to command. If you slip away from that knowledge, and fall prey to the belief that others can define you, that your actions are in another’s control, you lose autonomy and your individuality.

The first step I think is taking personal responsibility. I choose to make decisions based on experience and to generate a persona of how I am perceived. I am still learning, as we all must be, how to develop and maintain these perceptions. I make mistakes, and as it should be, I am altering and playing, trying to discover what fits properly. I have not figured it out yet. It is all in flux. That is what is so fun about it. I am constantly learning about my own style of interaction, how different types of social transactions make me feel and how playing games and trying to break out of them affects how I am perceived.

I think the next most difficult part of social interaction to examine is Male/Female. Flirtation, sexual desire, sex appeal, attraction, lust, love, friendship, companionship these concepts are difficult to define on their own. Let alone in combination. Each is so complex, so difficult to understand – but all are necessary. They are the primary motivators of our lives. They create a lifelong, consuming drive that defines our very existence.
Learning to interact within a social sphere, developing awareness of accepted and improper behavior is a necessary part of life. It helps us understand how we interact and how we attract a mate. If we could not adapt, learn from our environment, we could not survive.

I will try to add more thoughts late, but I would like to hear yours as well!

Cheers!