You Think You’re Self-Aware? Why Personas Are A Bigger Deal

These days, the concept of the persona is very real. Personas offer building blocks toward becoming a more whole person–as long as you know what they can, and can’t, do for you.

The viral wonder boy band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) recently kicked off a new album cycle for Map of the Soul: Personas, fronted by a new comeback trailer for “Persona.”

What’s blowing my mind is that this Korean boy band borrowed the title—Map of the Soul: Persona from a book by the Jungian, Murray Stein. Now books are now flying off the shelf.

As part of my ongoing research into identity formation in the digital age, I’ve been gathering data on the persona. The evidence is pretty eye opening. What psychologists used to consider an artificial layer of the self, persona has been transformed by the Internet.

These days, personas are very real, and can be building blocks toward becoming a more whole person. The key is to be aware of the limitations.

Keep in mind that social media has no platform for the inner realm. Every gesture faces outward. There is no backstage, either. Your profiles are always on view, unless you choose to block your profile, delete your account, or your careful to limit yourself to tiny groups.

Always on, always being social and always having audiences means two things:

  1. We’re always in the state of beginning again.
  2. We’re always presenting new versions of ourselves.

If personas are a wardrobe of selves, then some people own entire department stores. It’s no wonder so many young people in my study complain to me about exhaustion, despite being at the pinnacle of physical fitness. Feel me?

Expressing who we are in the digital culture requires us to be skillful at self-editing on the fly, at the expense of deeper reflection into who we are becoming. Oh, and how is it all adding up in our minds? Does it make us more self-aware? Or are we the sum of multiple personas? I’m still looking into it.

Personas have always been an expression of personal ambition, because forming a mask or playing a role is a form of striving. With practice and rapid repetition, people in this generation become masters of the mask—making it a truer expression of the self because it allows for the creative input that genetics and upbringing don’t.

As for Dr. Murray Stein, he was delighted. His work is being discovered by a new generation, “I must say I’m thrilled that they are taking an interest in Jung and my book, that Jung’s message and Carl Jung’s vision is being transmitted to people who otherwise would never hear about him,” said Stein. “Because I think what Jung has to offer in this century is a vision of wholeness and a vision of integrity and human rights that, you know, it would be so valuable for people all over the world to come into contact with and to study and to integrate into their daily life.”

If you haven’t read Stein’s classic book, Map of the Soul, do. His latest edition about the persona maybe tougher to come by. Big Hit’s online shop is sold out, snapped up by fans of this viral boy band. I’m awestruck.

As for BTS, ninjas of persona world, they racked up 2.6 million just in pre-sales, according to Caitlin Kelley writing for Forbes. Lots of people, lots of faces, rolling onward.

Rilke saw it, “there are multitudes of people, but there are many more faces, because each person has several of them.”

Takeaway: Keep your third eye open, kiddo.

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