When Being Someone Different Can Make You More Authentic
Last week, I introduced a new activity into the Multitudes experience – role plays. I've toyed with several different formats and activities, ranging from the simple Q&A to more collaborative (e.g. activities like co-creating stories) to the more experiential (e.g. deeply listening to a track). In spite of the clear signaling from some of the voice modulation options – you can choose to sound like a giant or a female pixie, for example – the thought of asking participants to assume those roles hadn't crossed my mind. Would people even be willing to participate in something so absurd?
Well, if the past week's sessions were any indicator – the answer is an unequivocal YES.
Okay, maybe not totally unequivocal.
But they did produce some of the FUNNIEST sessions that I've listened to across the 80+ episodes of Multitudes.
The instruction were fairly broad: One person was assigned to be an introverted giant that likes to write epic novels and sings in the opera; the other was a Female mutant (with a power of their choosing) that likes to dance to hip hop and works in the city council.)
In one session, the two participants dove headfirst into their roles – to hilarious effect:
In another, the two inadvertently misconstrued the instructions – which included changing their Zoom names to the names of constellations – to mean that they were to role play as constellations. Remarkably, they both pulled this off – and used it as an opportunity to delve into deep theories about the universe, quantum mechanics, and simulation theory!
The feedback from these sessions provided confirmation of how freeing the pseudonymity of these interactions can be. As one participant later reflected:
It's an opportunity to connect with another person - all without the pretense, facade, or worry of how the other person will perceive you. The role-playing is fun and lets your personality shine...This was a ton of fun! Didn't know what to expect but this is definitely a highlight experience for me - within ODF and outside!
Witnessing these sessions has made me wonder about the relationship between pseudonymity and authenticity.
Does it, as others have explored with sites like reddit, open up possibilities for identity exploration, exhibitionism, and connections with people without being limited by the social factors that routinely shape everyday life?
Can it take us out of the habit of catering to others' preferences to make a 'good impression' – as so many of us have done in a job interview – when we now know from research that being authentic leads to better outcomes?
What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the following question: