After signing off one of my comments with "TFG" - my Hubski-initials - I started thinking about identity.
I enjoy being ThatFanficGuy. I've used other aliases and, perhaps, personas online before; some are still in use for legacy compatibility (it's not simple to change an e-mail address given how many important post I get from automated senders) as well as due to sentimental reasons.
At the moment, I enjoy being ThatFanficGuy, as well as being TFG here, on Hubski. While it is a persona - I'm never as outspoken or honest offline due to weak boundries and desire to render other, in-flesh human beings around me appreciative of me, as well as the open-mindedness of the Hubski community which allows me to speak of matters important to me without risking being laughed at - I feel like I'm being more of myself - or, of whom I want to be - through it. I'd like to be more outspoken offline, around real people, and I've made some progress towards it already, but the atmosphere in the reality I experience is very different from Hubski. Here, I'm having fantastic, open-minded, honest and non-offensive conversations with people who doesn't share all of my views but are willing to discuss it, which in and of itself is an awesome opportunity to have. Here, I can just get away from people I don't like and not expose myself to... whatever you call racism and such views in general, with nobody to judge me for it as if I'm sinning through it.
I've just written a verbose and driven response to rd95 who has kindly decided to host a conversation on religion for which I wouldn't have guts to otherwise (see #talkreligion). As I finished writing it, I realized just how comfortable I was doing so. I don't fear persecution or public shaming for expressing my quite radical views on religion just because I express myself or because the views are quite radical. Overall, I got comfortable writing for Hubski because of its non-destructive nature; more than that, people actually got interested in me writing under #russiabynatives - both a surprise and a joyful fact for me, as this is the first time my writing got truly appreciated by what sums up to Internet strangers (I've been endorsed by friends before, but I considered it a given because "we're friends, so naturally").
Thanks to Hubski and its posters, I've started quite a few things of my own: I got back to writing stories, working out (which #tfgsworkout was supposed to be about - it's going to be some time before I return to it full-time), thinking about stuff in my life other than daily concerns (which leads to me starting an English-language blog, Metaphoria/Existential Machine, soon to be presented on Hubski along with the first post). I found a way to bring momentum into my life, which allowed me to skip over several ill-based fears in my life and promises more as I follow the path. A few people from here opened my eyes on a few important issues, and due to a few others I was able to overcome big obstacles in my life.
That being said, I wary bringing this persona - or this identity, or simply this name - into my life outside Hubski.
Back when I carried the name "Mirge" around - which was until half a year or so ago and carried along for years - I was eager to place the name and the identity into everything. All my accounts had some sort of the name in it. This was the shortcut for my VKontakte page (VK being a popular Russian social network). I boasted it, even, because of how good a person I imagined myself thanks to the mask. It got so far that my close friend gifted me a custom mug with big "Mirge" on it, stylish and all. Funnily enough, I've been drinking juice from the same mug just before writing this post, because I associate it with being "mine"; it's one of the few things that are truly mine, that supposedly express my identity, even though we're no longer friends and I'm mostly no longer under that name.
I enjoy being ThatFanficGuy, but I don't want to be ThatFanficGuy anywhere else.
This reminds me of a friend's story. Dissatisfied with his present self at the time, he created an online persona, through whom he befriended quite a few people. He gained quite a pleasure from talking through that persona - going as far as to say he was happy under that mask. It was only after one of his new friends asked him to stop the masquerade that he did - and ever since then he became unhappy because he now has to face terrible turmoil of unending internal questions, answers to which he can't even scrape for.
My friend donned the mask because he was unhappy about himself and people not treating him well. Did he return to the same state after he pulled the mask down? I'm not sure. I know that he faces what amounts to be an existential crisis as he now questions every fibre of his being, and I know that it takes its toll on him. He's quite young, though, - a few years off my age; I can easily imagine myself on his place had I done the same.
What I know for certain is that he faces the same crisis I faced back in my day: as a personality, he's nothing; barebones, a skeleton of a person with several core interests but not much else. I was the same back when I started my first uni, which meant having a semblance of life of my own (beforehand living under the emotional oppression of parents, a circumstance both my friend and I seem to share). Going through it, especially while having no network of friends to go for support to, is tough: you remain nothing for a long time, right until you recognize you're something.
Is he better off without the mask but without the flesh as well? I'd like to say "he is" with certainty, but something stops me. He's now exposed to the world he's not prepared for, and there's no one - not even me, the supposed experienced one - to help him through it. All I can do is give advice from my point of view and hope that the heavy-lifting he ought to do won't leave scars on his mind.
Back during the late "Mirge" period, with the close friend I've mentioned, I went under a few masks at the time in order to fit in better with her and other friends of the same circle.
I considered myself a Martian (not seriously: in a "men are from Mars" sort of way) because of the sheer dissonance between myself and other people I've experienced (still do, to a degree), and I acted on it to justify myself not opening to other people because I'm "supposed" to be "weird". That, for a long time, was the core of my identity: "I'm weird".
For some reason, people compared me either to a cat (supposedly I look not unlike one) or a guy nicknamed Cat (no idea why) ever since I attended the state exam (where one of my future groupmates saw me - and, apparently, quite a few girls looking my way when I walked past; I can only shrug). Whatever's the reason, my close friend told me gleefully "You do look like a cat!", and ever since I played a cat for her: purring as we spent time in each other's arms, eating sour cream cheerfully (helped by the fact that I actually like sour cream) and such other stuff. I donned that mask because I looked quite cute with it - just imagine a 6'1"-6'2" otherwise-imposing guy saying kitten's "Meow!" - and thus my friend gave the attention I so striven for. I donned it without realizing how demeaning that was towards myself, but at the time it wasn't a concern: I had no self-esteem, and others' attention was of high importance.
There were also things like "class clown", "supposed high-level English speaker among one's peers" and some else, small but building a whole.
For the time, it was me and it wasn't me. It was me in a sense that that's how most people saw me, because I let that on, and for some time, I myself believed it enough to accept the masks as my personality. It wasn't me because, indeed, I forced it upon myself to gain attention and appreciation of others, even if superficial. It wasn't me because, even though there wasn't much of me to start with, I knew those things didn't fit, much like you know what clothes are your style without having a clue about style. But then, what was me?
Back around the same time, my then-girlfriend asked me about social masks we wear. "You can't be the same person for everyone, can you?", she asked. "Oh, certainly not", I replied, feeling confident because I was entrusted to answer such a serious and mature question. I was even preparing to write a blog piece about how important it is to wear these masks: one's teacher can't act as they would with their friends; a doctor can't act towards patients as they would towards their parents; and so on. "Surely", I thought, "one must be different for different people: that's how you differentiate between the classes of people you're with".
Now, however, it's something I doubt. It's true that certain occupations require certain restraints: a teacher must be mindful of how their actions affect a whole group of very susceptible people and, therefore, ought to provide the best example possible of an authority figure which they're supposed to be; a doctor must keep their cool, whatever the situation, because the cool might just be the critical patient's permission to stay on Earth for a little longer. However, it doesn't mean being different around different groups of people; it doesn't mean fitting in to other people's expectations of you or changing one's course of actions if previous course didn't yield the designated group's appreciation.
One's responsible for what they are and the way they act. Both of those affect one's personality as much as the personality affects one's actions. If you can't act on what you think is right or true, you aren't you: you're others' expectations, or others' fears, or even your own, and there's no way anyone benefits from it other than malicious people using others for their lowly goals.
There's no longer a justification for me not to act on what I believe is best. Others' expectations used to be, but they're ceasing since I've discovered the magical drive in my life. Others - most of them - aren't even important in my life, let alone trusted to make accurate observations of myself. Why should I give my life away to them?
It doesn't matter if I don't know who I am: I have more than enough to make myself whom I want to be. This, like for meaning of life, is the whole point: you are what you make of it, the rest be damned.