The Masks We Wear

“Oh, I think I know you”

“Actually, you probably don’t”


When in your everyday relationships with the people around you – do you think that you really know them? Can you guess their every move? Know what they are really thinking? Guess their choices before they can? Odds are, you probably do not know everything about everyone close to you.

One of the major themes in the two classes that I have taken with my current professor is the idea of masks that we wear in our everyday lives. In my first class, our presentation discussed the various masks a Principal wears while working, while this year the idea of masks was discussed when talking about how ethnographers can tell (if they can) if an interview subject is putting on a performance or really being themselves.

Erving Goffman wrote a paper “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. He states that social life and one’s self is all essentially a performance and that we are continuously acting. We are all actors, performing with a script (the script being the culture that forms us). But, Goffman notes that we have front and back regions – The front being the performance area where we are heavily acting, while the back area is a place where we can relax and feel more “like ourselves”. Good ethnographers are able to find the in-between zone and really dive into a particular person or culture – figuring out, like Holden Caulfield, whether people are all just a bunch of phonies.

We all put on our masks everyday, some of us more than others. It may be a conscious feeling of being a different person, or one may be performing in their subconscious. As a teacher, you can bet that I do wear a mask when I am on the clock. You would probably be hard pressed to find a teacher who was 100% themselves while in front of students. When I put on my teacher-mask, I do not swear, display proper manners at all times and I would even say that I speak differently when teaching. It is not just with students that teachers wear masks – they act differently around other staff, administration and definitely with parents. The one place I would say that I somewhat take off my teacher mask is at track meets – yes, I will admit I’ve said an F-bomb (or two) in the stands. Opps?

Another place where people wear masks almost all the time is on the blog front. I firmly believe that there are very few bloggers out there who really tell us everything about themselves. I certainly don’t! You all have an idea of who I am – but unless you know me in real life – there are some big pieces of information missing. I never really disclose P’s name, I’ve never mentioned P’s or Max’s last name, you have no idea where I’m working right now and I don’t post daily food pictures – so you can’t really tell if I’ve had a salad or a Big Mac for lunch. Much of this is due to privacy reasons – but really I am not interested in telling the world what I do every day. Hint: it is not that interesting and rather routine.

But – some bloggers do ‘tell all’ in their daily posts. You see everything that they eat, how they exercised and what they did over the day. I’m not knocking that at all – I actually like reading daily life posts. My point is, that even though these bloggers share quite a bit -they do not share all. There is one clear example of a blogger secret shocker this summer when a very popular runner blogger announced she was filing for divorce. People were shocked because she rarely (if not ever) shared anything negative about her marriage. Since then there has been no comment about what happened (and it should probably stay that way) – but that is my point. Even though this blogger shares almost everything – she clearly does not share all.

I leave you with one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes:

“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…”

-As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII


Do you wear a mask at your job?

Are we all just a bunch of phonies?

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