“The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by Erving Goffman

What is the author’s major thesis?

The main thesis expressed by Erving Goffman is that individuals in the presence of others behave similarly to actors on the stage (1). He claims that “the individual will be interested in making a favorite show of himself” (Goffman 6).

How convincing is the author in supporting the major thesis?

Goffman supports his thesis by explaining the peculiarities of the social presence of a person. The presentation of self is compared to a theatrical performance. A person is an actor or a performer who has an aim to impress the surrounding people. In this case, social context is a stage for the performance.

What does he use to support the thesis?

Goffman uses some theatre-related concepts to support his thesis. Thus, the term ‘performance’ is used “to refer to all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his conscious presence” in front of observers and aims to influence these observers (Goffman 13). The audience, as a necessary component of performance, is presented by observers or co-participants. Moreover, it is important to believe in the part one is playing the way the actors do.

What major theoretical perspectives are represented? (please include the symbolic interactionist perspective)

Goffman outlines some theoretical perspectives about the sense of self and the ways of self-presentation in society. One of the main ones is the symbolic interactionist perspective that treats daily behaviors and individual interactions as a tool to interpret society (“Erving Goffman’s Theories”). Other significant theoretical perspectives represented in the book are those of impression management and dramaturgy.

Are there apparent biases? If so, what are they?

One of the possible biases of Goffman’s theory is that it includes the possibility of misrepresentation and mystification provided by the “performer.” The fact that one person acting his or her role on the social stage and thus influencing the audience means that this audience can be misled.

What are the major strengths of the book?

The major strength of the book is the disclosure of peculiarities of self-presentation. Goffman provides the division of the social roles such as performers, audience, and outsiders observed in diverse social situations. Moreover, the author provides a valuable analysis of the arts of impression management that can be applied as a tool to study social establishments.

What are the major weaknesses of the book?

Probably, the weakness of the book is the excessive use of theatrical metaphors. Although they are useful, they cannot describe social behaviors in detail. Moreover, the lack of research on dramaturgical analysis contributes to doubts concerning its validity.

How do you think Goffman would respond to the idea that many students seem to believe that we have a “true self” and then all these other “selves” that we feel we must play in certain situations?

In fact, I suppose that the idea of “true self” and the other “selves” derives from Goffman’s theory. It also presupposes acting differently depending on the situation. Thus, Goffman would probably positively respond to this idea and support it.

How has modern technology (e.g., social media) changed how we present ourselves in everyday life? What remains the same?

Modern technology that empowers the excessive use of social media shifted the “stage” from real-life settings to the Internet. Also, it extended the audience from a small group to a global Internet community. Finally, it provided powerful tools for presenting self the way a person considers appropriate.

Why is this book considered so important for dramaturgical analysis?

In his book, Goffman treats a theory of social interaction as “the dramaturgical model of social life” (Crossman). The author links social interaction to the theatre. The importance of dramaturgical analysis lies in distinguishing different types of performances known as the Front-Stage Self and Back-Stage Self (Dramaturgy (Dramaturgical Analysis) 1:43-2:35).

Why does Goffman emphasize the importance of the presentation of self in everyday life?

The significance of the presentation of self in everyday life is emphasized because it provides an opportunity to reveal personal traits and succeed in life or career. Without a proper presentation, the audience would not know the person and his or her advantages.

Works Cited

Crossman, Ashley. “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. An Overview of Self in Everyday Life.ThoughtCo. 2017. Web.

Dramaturgy (Dramaturgical Analysis).YouTube, uploaded by Sociology Live!. 2015. Web.

Erving Goffman’s Theories: Impression Management, Dramaturgy & Symbolic Interaction.” Study.com. Web.

Goffman, Erving. The Presentation if Self in Everyday Life. University of Edinburgh, 1956.