In David Buckingham’s Introducing Identity, he states that identity is a very ambiguous term. He uses the concept of “identity theft” to define identity as “something we uniquely possess: it is what distinguishes us from other people. Yet on the other hand, identity also implies a relationship with a broader collective or social group of some kind.” It’s clear that there are several layers to identity, and that depending on whom we are interacting, we might have a different identity.
I consider identity to be who we portray ourselves and who we are deep down. But this may differ depending on situation. For instance, on social media, my identity will differ from my identity in more formal situations, when I’m teaching, for example. On Twitter I (try to) come across as in informed, politically engaged football fan with #bantz, and this makes up part of my larger identity. But in more formal situations, at a job interview, for example, I put on a different persona, which is more formal and polite. I’d like to think that neither of these personas are artificial, but because there is a time and a place for either, but rarely for both, they are never see together.
Persona is defined as “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others”. The key word here is “aspect”. Everyone’s identity is made up of many different aspects of their character. So, I would define identity as the multiple personas that one’s character comprises. Celebrities will have their facing-the-media persona and their behind-closed-doors persona. They are still the same person whose identity is a combination of both personas, although some celebs may only have one (see: Joey Barton, Liam Gallagher). Unless… they put on those personas in the media and are actually different in private…
Identity isn’t a conscious choice, in my opinion. Identity is a result of various factors. These factors are social, economic, cultural and biological. Where we happen to be born, who we happen to befriend, what we happen to look like, and what culture we happen to be born into all contribute to our identity. Culture is a broad term, though. It encapsulates everything about the society we live in: social norms as mundane as what time people eat dinner, religion, which sports are popular, music and general art. It amuses me when people say that the British don’t have culture because, while the food may be bland, and the weather wet, these are components of British culture. Dry humour, Grime music, Shakespearean theatre and queueing for the bus are all parts of British culture and often we don’t even realise.
These cultural things are all small parts of my identity, which I noticed is extremely British after living in Spain for nine months. When you go somewhere else, you realise just how much cultures differ, and how much they contribute to our identities.