Saturday, February 18, 2006

Maintaining a public image: Is it necessary?

A few days back, I was playing a game of Mafia with some friends. Its a game of logical arguments, intense discussions, and smart guesswork. After couple of rounds, the game got interesting. I tried to put forward a very logical argument about why 'C' could be a mafia. I was trying to explain my point, however, some people were not convinced about the logic. As usual, I was trying to make a point with some humor involved in it, and people thought I was being funny. At that point, 'P', a good friend of mine, said: "Shut up Vivek, no one amongst us takes you seriously !!".

That comment really took me by surprise. For first time in many years, someone actually told what people think of me. I was not sure how to react to that comment. I was kinda amused to hear that; was also disappointed as my very valid point was not being considered; but at same time, somewhere within, I was also pleased to know that I have some public image now.

Wow !!.

I have never tried to have one particular image of mine. As a kid I was very quiet, intense, subdued, and introvert. Even though I was active and forthcoming, I was anything but brat, wasted or arrogant. In engineering days, people would associate me with my laughter, and my monomania for trekking. As far as I recollect, I was always a trustworthy, modest, and happy-go-lucky person. I was part of a famous group in library, had amazing fun enjoying those 4 years, and was very content the way my life was going.

In Clemson, however, I tried not be be confined to any particular group. The reason: I wanted to experience whatever was on offer. I tried to be equally active with various student organizations, especially CISA, Surabhi, ISA and of course AID. At the same time I was there with crazy friends enjoying some barbecues, road trips, parties, playing cricket, and what not. Those were the days when I would live every day as if there was no tomorrow. Every experience was different ans vastly satisfying, and that kept encouraging me to venture new things all the time.

and now Cleveland. Here I tried experimenting with myself. (it's another story altogether). Anyways...

Is it really necessary to have a particular public image?. Or do people really have a defined public image?

Apparently many people do have one. Some are known to be street-smart, some poetic, some cultured, some talented, some wasted, some eccentric, some antagonists, some protagonists, some shallow and some deep. Some are known to be singers, some mimics, some dancers and some are know to be drunkies. When one goes to a public function / social event, one carries a specific personality with him. And he is expected to be just that. Anything else is neither accepted nor acceptable. I have often observed one thing in social events: certain individuals are 'expected' to act/ react in a particular manner. Often one would observe these personalities who would always debate about politics, some others would always start bitching about some thing or other, someone else would always sing a particular genre of songs, and someone would always start dancing the moment he enters the party. Some specific group would always discuss some specific topic (such as cricket, football, studies..) and there are a few who would just be in their own world.

Why do we have these pre-defined notions about people?. Are these people really like that in day-to-day life?... Do they reflect their real self?...

Probably not. I have known so many people who are completely different than what they show off. I have known intensely intense people being perceived as frivolous individuals. I have known extremely sensitive people being publicly recognised as rude and heartless. I have known really harmless people assumed to cause problems.

Do we ever bother to know them closely?... do we even try to understand why an individual reacts to a particular manner each time a situation arises?. We don't.

Why? (I actually don't have an answer to this one. Let me know if you have one).

In today's world it is very important to develop contacts, exchange your thoughts with others, be professional and perfect, be famous... most importantly to 'sell' ourselves. The mantra is to 'get noticed' somehow. It is very difficult to survive the fierce competition of today's world if we don't do that. Some people are quite smart and comfortable at it and some are not. And the ones who represent the second type often end up at the receiving end. Probably this is the only way life works and there is no apparent solution than self-belief and hard work.

When we go out for shopping, we often end up buying the stuff that looks good rather than what has more utility. When we go out to a fancy restaurant, we tend to order a dish that looks good. When we try to find a partner in life, we first shortlist ones who look picture perfect and gorgeous. Don't we?

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