Are We Who We Think We Are?

"I am who I think you think I am." - Charles Horton Cooley

The "looking glass self" is a theory coined by American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley. It's the idea that everyone believes the person they really are is dependent upon who others think they are. "I am who you think I am," said Cooley.

In this video, Jason Silva discusses the ways in which social media strongly reflect this concept today. We all decorate our Instagram with filters, choose the perfect profile photo on Facebook, and take time to think about exactly what we want to say in the 140 character tweet. We then continue to cultivate our online personas based on how we believe others see us on these platforms.

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This concept can be seen everywhere in society. For example, if your parents and relatives believe you to be very smart, and raised you with the expectation that you are smart, you're likely to also believe you're smart and rise to meet their expectations.

It's a process that continues into adulthood as well. We imagine how we appear to our friends and co-workers and we consider the judgments they might be making of how we appear to them. Then we think about how they feel about us based on those judgements. We then often change how we act based on what we think their perception of us is.

As Cooley confusingly puts it, "I imagine your mind, and especially what your mind thinks about my mind, and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind."

This process has been magnified by social media, but Silva believes we should stop questioning the authenticity of our lives online and instead accept the fact that "identity is a fluid act of improvisation... the self is not a solid thing and never has been."

-- Molly Fosco