Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?

No, I haven’t been watching old TV episodes of The Lone Ranger.  However, I have been thinking about last Sunday’s message at church (entitled “When Masks Melt”) and this made me think of the masked man himself – the Lone Ranger.  His disguise was intentional and obvious, not like the rest of us.

With the William Tell overture playing in the background of my mind, I listened to the message, which suggested that we hide our true selves because of shame.  In the Bible, in Genesis – Chapters 2 and 3 we see the introduction of shame, when Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves after disobeying God.  The pastor pointed out that we’re not much different; we hide shameful aspects of our lives so others can’t judge us – just as Adam and Eve feared God would judge them.

Some masks he mentioned are: obsession with sports, superficial things (like outward appearances), and humor.  I flinched a little, and I swear he looked right at me, though there were 200 other people in the room.  Well, uh…let me tell you about the priest, a minister and a rabbi who walked into a bar…

The pastor then asked us to identify ways we hide and pretend.  He suggested taking a “relational risk” by revealing ourselves to others in small groups or one-on-one.

The first part was easy.  I thought of how many times I’ve lied to others to protect myself.  I say I’m fine when I’m not or make a joke to deflect a curious question.  If I’m hurting, I don’t want to burden others with the knowledge of it.  In our society, we are brought up to respond this way, but it’s isolating.  How much lighter would we feel if we only asked how someone was doing when we really wanted to know, and felt safe enough to give an honest answer when asked?

The “relational risk” part caused my heart skip a beat or three.  This suggestion made me feel as exposed as wearing a swimsuit without a cover up that reached my knees.  Emotional nakedness is what recurring nightmares are made of.

As intended, it got me thinking about my relationships.  I reveal different things about myself online vs. in person.  My personal interactions shift depending on who I am talking to:  parents, boss, friends, co-workers or husband.  My true self is like the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop – and no one person has gotten to my core.

The internet removes the judgment of face-to-face relationships because I have no idea who is reading, and they don’t know who I am either.  But what I share is also guarded for the exact same reasons.  The internet is like a suit of armor allowing me to conceal all but the tiniest pieces of my real self.  Interaction is kept at arm’s length because there is no laughter, sharing of tears or an encouraging embrace.  It is impossible to know if “fine” is really fine when reading words on a computer screen.

That being said, I don’t plan to abandon my online self.  Sorry.  I bet you got excited for a minute there.  The interaction and comments are just too much to resist.

Perhaps the next series in church will address addiction?

How is your ‘online self’ different from your ‘in-person self’?  Do you feel more comfortable with online or in-person interactions?  I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic.

Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way also had a recent post on (figuratively) wearing masks.  Click this line to give it a read.

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18 thoughts on “Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?

  1. J. P. Cabit August 28, 2011 / 5:40 AM

    It’s easy to be a little open with my online self, because not all my “real world” connections read it, so I feel safer sharing part of my life online. The other part of me has bad dreams that my true identity is revealed online, causing panic. lol

    My online self doesn’t even tell people what state I live in. The real me would tell new acquaintances where I live (like, where in the county etc.)

    I guess all in all I’m more open in the “real” world.

    Maybe you should email this blog post to your pastor >_<

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 4:32 PM

      I had that all wrong, Seph…the Lone Ranger isn’t the masked man…you are 🙂

      Life is different online and off, so it makes sense that the parts of you revealed would be different. That is why I cannot send this post to my pastor…my online and real worlds would collide with possibly catastrophic results. (Yeah, I’m being overly dramatic and only half kidding!)

  2. Debbie August 28, 2011 / 8:03 AM

    I so empathize with this post, Janna. I, too, feel like I hide, especially when I’m online. The stories of bullying and cyber-stalking and perverts are too true and frightening for us to let our guards down. That said, I do believe we’re called to let certain people in — spouses, best friends, etc. — though we reveal different parts of ourselves to each. It’s when those relationships break down that we feel exposed and vulnerable.

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 4:42 PM

      I agree with your comments. The world can be a scary place online and off, but we are wired to develop friendships.

      In my younger years, I reached out to people who seemed like they needed a friend. I talked to them when others wouldn’t, but I learned my lesson after the second stalking incident. As a result, I am careful about who I talk to in person (i.e., offline). In some respects, I feel more freedom online, but I’d pull the plug on my online self if I needed to.

  3. Carl D'Agostino August 28, 2011 / 9:11 AM

    Met some delightful people since I started the blog. There are some sites re depression and professional directed conversation. Often addiction recovery conversations. Sharing within the network is comfortable. Since there is such a finite group I don’t fear being invaded. My on-line self is genuine but we must not make ourselves vulnerable. I definitely would like to have in-person interaction like whiling away the afternoons on a cool porch just chitting and chatting away about this or that. It gets more intimate sometimes as several blog buddies are wrestling with death and illness of family and these are saved for private email. A dozen or two used-to-be strangers are now part of my life.

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 4:48 PM

      You’re right, Carl. My online self is really me, also – but it’s an edited part of me. There are certain aspects of my life that are off-limits for online discussion (i.e., details about my work, hubby’s work, kids’ interactions outside of our house, etc.).

      It is nice when bonds form between other bloggers, whether it be sharing joy or suffering. I’m glad you have met so many people online that have touched your life.

  4. nrhatch August 28, 2011 / 10:27 AM

    I’m pretty “real” these day ~ on line and off. I definitely have a “love me or leave me” approach to life . . . and blogging.

    If I write a post about Zebras, and someone decides that I should have written about Giraffes, I just laugh. Especially if they start arguing with me about the Giraffes THEY created in their own mind. I remind them the post was about Zebras.

    When we worry about our image with others, we stagnate. Instead of blooming fully, we hold ourselves back. We wear the “mask” they’re used to seeing so they recognize us. If we haven’t seen someone for awhile, we revert back to old behaviors to make THEM feel comfortable, making ourselves feel uncomfortable.

    When you have time, listen to the TED talk. It’s awesome. About becoming whole hearted ~
    finding courage (from the French for whole-hearted) ~ and what happens when we do.

    * It’s easier to ask for what we want . . . because we don’t worry about being rejected.
    * It’s easier to say what we mean . . . because we don’t worry if others disagree.

    We’re FREE at last!
    We’ve knocked down the prison walls we constructed around ourselves to protect ourselves from potential rejection.

    When we allow ourselves to be “vulnerable,” we become invincible.

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 4:51 PM

      Your comments always make me feel like I can take on the world, Nancy. It’s like my very own personalized pep talk 🙂 Thanks!

      P.S. I don’t care if you write about zebras, giraffes or elephants, I enjoy reading your posts regardless!

    • nrhatch August 28, 2011 / 9:16 PM

      Thanks, Janna. That was lovely to read before I head to the Land of Nod. 😀

      • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 10:48 PM

        The Land of Nod is great. I’ll be headed there soon myself 🙂

  5. cuhome August 28, 2011 / 3:57 PM

    Well, I’m a hugger, I like to hug people. Even people I don’t know that well. It probably comes from all the years of being a hospice nurse, and I met people and families and had, often a very short time to get from “Hello” to “Good-Bye”.

    So, I’d say, I’m more comfortable face to face with people. (Remember the thing about having to go look in the closet to see if there was really a monster in there? About not being able to pull the covers over my head? So, what’s more uncomfortable to me is NOT knowing who’s reading what I’m writing.

    Interesting question, though. I love the questions you pose! Great post!

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 5:52 PM

      It takes a special personality to be a hospice nurse – that seems like it would be a difficult profession. I admire those who do it because I know I couldn’t.

      I can see how online might be perceived as more uncomfortable. I remember my first blog post, I was terrified about unknown people reading my blog. After a while, the hysterical feeling inside went away, but it’s still strange that people actually visit (repeatedly) and read what I write. I just have faith that the psycho cyber stalkers have better things to do than read my posts 😉

      Going along with the unseen and unknown, I prefer to talk to people in person rather than on the phone because I can “read” them better.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your comment – I’m glad you like the questions, Cuhome!

  6. pattisj August 28, 2011 / 10:58 PM

    I think I’m pretty much the same both places, only a little more private online for reasons you stated. I prefer online communicating to phone, and I would love to meet some of the people I’ve met online. About preferring online to personal interactions, I would say that might depend on the person.

    • jannatwrites August 29, 2011 / 7:41 PM

      Online interactions do allow for us to show another side of ourselves. It would be nice to meet some online acquaintances. I wonder how many would match their online persona?

      Thanks for stopping by, Patti!

  7. momsomniac September 2, 2011 / 8:58 AM

    I think I am pretty much the same on and offline, with a few differences.

    I am a bit more private on the internet, though in many ways, that has led to me being more private in person. In the past, I may have shared things about my kids with others that I would not now. Before I write about my kids, for example, I carefully consider if what I am writing would be OK with them in 5 or 10 years. Now, I try to do the same in real life. I sometimes fail, especially when talking tome Mom. But I try.

    I think I am also a wee bit nicer on the internet for a few reasons:
    1) Because I am writing, not talking, I can go back and delete anything that would be imprudent or rude. Some people still take offense or become bullies, but I know I did my best. In real life, sometimes words come out of my mouth without my brain’s consent.

    2) I am slightly less likely to apologize to people in person. This is because too many people think that it means “You’re right AND you should kick me emotionally now” and THAT happens more in real life DUE TO AN APOLOGY than on the internet. People on the ‘net are often surprised by an apology and are then game for intelligent engagement. It’s one of the nicest things about this venue.

    3) As a correlary to 2 (and why people are surprised) there are so many people being SO mean on the internet that, being who I am, I feel compelled to counterbalance that. And on the ‘net, when being nice leads to bullying, it’s easier to “disconnect.”

    • jannatwrites September 2, 2011 / 9:03 PM

      I agree with keeping the kiddos’ privacy. I have to admit, that I tell more stories in real life than I would ever do online, but it is mostly to family.

      The differences between your online self and real life self are interesting to me. It’s true that there is a lot of meanness and hatred on the internet, but thankfully, I haven’t gotten a dose of it in the blog world. I haven’t experienced the same real life issues with apologies, but given your experience, I see why you would not give them freely.

      Thanks for sharing how your online and real life self differ, Momsomniac. I just find the different sides to people so fascinating 🙂

  8. Barb September 5, 2011 / 1:20 PM

    Considering how much I like to express myself in writing and how much I hate the spoken word (the tongue wounds more than the sword – literal translation of Italian saying), I guess I’m more sociable… online! (And on chat more than on the phone) In person, I’m the sociopath sitting in the corner, lost in her own world! 😉

    • jannatwrites September 6, 2011 / 8:43 PM

      Interesting description of yourself, Barb. Made me chuckle, but I’d say you’re observing and conducting research rather than being a sociopath sitting in the corner 🙂

      I agree that the written word is more deliberate (we have the chance to think about what we are communicating and have the opportunity to delete our words.)

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