‘Are you always the same?’ Most people cannot say ‘yes’ to this question, because we feel that we are different when we are with people, on SNS, or at home. Modern people live in ‘Multi Persona times’ where we have different identities in different situation. Let’s look at the definition of Multi Persona’s and some examples.
What is Multi Persona?
‘Persona’ is a mask used by actors in ancient Greece, and it means ‘the way people see me’ in psychology. Therefore ‘Multi Persona’ means various aspects of myself or many sides of me. It presents modern people who change their looks according to the situation and context like a changing a mask. They think it is natural and enjoy it. The concept of individuals being expressed with multiple egos has existed before, but it was usually used with the negative meanings of ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’. However, these days, having a diversity of identities is becoming a popular trend. In other words, modern people feel that it is natural to have different identities in doing work and leaving work, in daily life and on social media. Jeon Mi-young, a researcher at Seoul National University’s Consumption Trend Analysis Center, said “It is time in which everyone lives with an instantaneous switching mode, just like changing the program when you press the Alt and Tab keys on a computer at the same time.
The main reason for the appearance of the Multi Persona is that the identity base is changing. Traditionally, human identity has been formed based on parentage and job. However, in the modern society the meaning of the parentage is fading with the rise of people living alone, also job identity has become temporary because the job market has become unstable. Thus, people want to find other identities by focusing on ‘something I like, something new’ instead of being tied to one identity. Furthermore, these trends are spreading with the development of online platforms. The reason is that people online can act with their personal information hidden, so they can express themselves in a more flexible way than offline. According to the ‘2019 Social Trend Report’ by Global Web Index, each person has an average of 7.6 SNS media accounts, and it shows that many people are revealing a variety of selves on SNS.
Various Multi Persona Appearances
Multi Persona is most common on SNS, and it also appears on ‘Hobby-preneurs’ who think of hobbies as another life, and furthermore it is used to produce contents. In the past, people intensively uploaded their interests and daily lives on only one SNS, and when another SNS emerged, they tended to move to that platform. For example, ‘Buddy Buddy’ was very popular in 2004, but a few years later, Cyworld became popular in 2007 and Facebook became popular in 2012. In other words, people chose one popular SNS according to the trend of the times. However nowadays people use more than one SNS and they tend to use each account freely and flexibly according to the characteristics of different SNS. For example, Facebook is focused on maintaining good connections, Instagram is focused on images that can show one’s sensibility, and Twitter is used as a channel to express political opinions or fan club activities. Furthermore, people create multiple accounts on one platform to show different personas. The typical example is the growing number of people who separate their main accounts and sub accounts on Instagram. In other words, in the past, people exhibited all their various daily lives and hobbies in their main account, but nowadays people create more accounts to divide up their interests. For example, in the main account, people upload their daily lives, while they show specific interests such as exercise, food, companion animals and study in their sub accounts. Sub accounts can be used as means to connect and communicate, interact with people of similar tastes through hashtags. In an interview with Snap Time in June 2019, Park So-ye (False name, 25, female) said, “I am interested in feminism but people who don’t sympathize with this issue continued to attack me when I talk about it. So, I created a sub account.” and showed that she is able to present another persona freely and communicate with people through a sub account. Moreover, when people use different accounts, they act as if they are wearing different mask in a theater. For example, in a pet account, the owner of the account acts cute like a dog, while in the vice account, the owner acts cool. The Hip-hop musician Crush opened his companion dog Doyou's Instagram account(@shindoyou), and unlike the main account he used cute way of speaking on his posts with photos and videos of Doyou. Doyou's Instagram account surpassed 110,000 followers as of May 2020. In reference to the appearance of a sub account that is completely different from his main account, Crush said shamelessly “I don’t manage my dog’s account, my dog does himself” and “When I don’t see it, Doyou keeps calmly doing its SNS.”
Secondly, another Multi Persona aspect is ‘Hobby-preneur’. In April 2020, the job portal, Job Korea carried out its ‘The Multi Persona trend survey’ on office workers, and three out of four office workers said that they looked different at the company. It shows that in these Multi Persona Times, many people tend to act like completely different people from their previous selves, like even though they are calm and quiet at work, they can be active and passionate in a band club. Also, there is a tendency to form one’s identity not through a job but from continuous hobby activities. This led to the appearance of the ‘Hobby-Preneur,’ someone who treats a hobby as another life. Hobby-preneur is a compound word of hobby and preneur that means a person who pursues something. They don't simply enjoy their hobbies, rather they form networks through their hobbies and build another identity. In January 2020, KukminIlbo interviewed Lee Hee-jo, who works at a fashion company during the day, but teaches her hobby, Yoga in the evening. She found a new side of herself by meeting and teaching people beyond simply enjoying her hobbies. She said, “I've moved from my career as a magazine reporter and still am not used to my work completely also I had a hard time adjusting to the new relationship.” “But at the Yoga Center, I'm talking to the members with a relaxed expression first." She added, “Sometimes I was surprised to see myself giving tea and leading the conversation with members who seem to have concerns.” Another example, Kim Hyun-chul is a student at Seoul National University's law school who analyzes precedents and studies lawyers' exams on weekdays, but every Saturday morning he puts down the law books and becomes a ‘major league expert’ to host the podcast "MLB NATION" with sports reporters. On his Podcast, he reviews major games during the week and tells the records of new players to watch out for. At the end of 2019, he invited and interviewed rising Korean players who wanted to debut in the Major League. He said, "When I interview them about something that was not covered by the media before, I feel like there is another me.” Moreover, when asked ‘It is difficult to do only one thing, isn’t it hard to live a life that completely separates school life and hobby life?’ He said, "I think if I want to do it and am doing it my way, I can’t be tired.”
The final, Multi Persona aspect is related to entertainment contents. In the media world, ‘Multi persona concept’ in which characters are changed depending on the situation, is very popular. The Multi Persona entertainment program <Hang out with Yoo> which is led by Yoo Jae-seok presents various genres in one program. In March 2020, according to the ratings agency Nielsen Korea, <Hang out with Yoo> ranked first among Saturday entertainment programs in the same time slot with a rating of 9.7% of viewrs in the metropolitan area. In <Hang out with Yoo>, Yoo Jae-seok shows his hidden trot talent through his sub character ‘Yoo San-seul’. During the program, trot singer Jin Sung improvises with the stage name ‘Yoo San-seul,’ which is fixed as Yoo Jae-seok's trot stage name. After that he presents a cooking show with a funny story with another sub character called ‘Yoo Ra-sex’ who makes ramen sexy. Yoo Ra-sex was named by the announcer Jang Sung-kyu. And as we can see, Yoo Jae-seok's sub character names are based on his surname Yoo. The reason of this program’s popularity is that the process of changing characters is presented to the public and the multiple identities that we wish for ourselves are expressed pleasantly and freely. In Multi Persona Times, people have fellowship and fresh fun with Yoo Jae-seok’s various character in <Hang out with Yoo>. Thanks to the popularity of this program, it is a hot issue that after 29 years of debut awards, Yoo Jae-seok received the Rookie of the Year award at the 2019 MBC Entertainment Awards for his sub character 'Yoo San-seul'. One netizen who saw this program commented 'It's really fun.' 'How will another character come out? There are musical and barista concepts,’ showing an expectation for another character from Yoo Jae-seok. In addition, <Hang out with Yoo> will expand the multi persona worldview to show another appearance of Yoo Jae-seok as dance singer who will be active as a member of a mixed group with popular stars Lee Hyo-ri and Rain. In addition, the comedian Kim Shin-young made a new sub character called ‘Kim Da-vi’ and released a trot song ‘Gimme Gimee’. It is the character of Kim Shin-young's second aunt who speaks bitter words instead of young people in these times, and she appeared in KBS1’s Morning Yard in May 2020. Asked by the host about her relationship with Kim Shin-young, Kim Da-vi proficiently said, "I have a clear family relationship with her. Shin-young is Shin-young and I'm second aunt Kim Da-vi." This trend is expected to continue for some time, because it appeals to people with a unique charm that has not been shown in the original character and it is closely related to the characteristics of modern people with a complex identity.
Expansion of Times of Multi Persona
The spread of the Multi Persona brings many new features. First, double-sided consumption increases. In these Multi persona times, consumption following the identity of the situation becomes important and it leads to ‘Double-sided consumption’ which means that price are important in one situation, but in other situations, product performance is more important. The typical example is that 'Cost effectiveness trends' and 'Premium trends' are both popular. Easily, double-sided consumption depending on the situation, such as when a person simply needs to eat a meal, he eats a cost effective hamburger, but when he is on a date, he eats an expensive premium hamburger. Another example is that someone wears a 10 million won Rolex watch when working, but he also wears a 100,000 won smartwatch when pursuing an outdoor lifestyle that includes exercise. In the past people chose products according to income levels, but in the Multi persona times, consumption depends on the situation.
Secondly, identities of various individuals are revealed in Multi persona times, more and more people are worried about themselves, because a person feels a difference between the real self and the other persona. The Consumption Trend Analysis Center said, "SNS has expanded human pluralism, but paradoxically, the foundation of personal identity has become very unstable." The trend of the personality test ‘Planting Your Own Flowers’ reveals concerns about trying to find oneself among various identities. It got a lot of attention from 30 million users worldwide because it enables users to find their types of concentration through an interesting story. The test takes about five minutes, and when you select a favorite seed from four seeds and solve eight questions on topics such as music, books, and messengers. Finally the seed grows, and you can check the plant that is suitable for you and the personality analysis that follows that plant. Through this test, you can understand not only your personality, but also what kind of friends you need and how to achieve more efficiency or where you can improve your concentration. One Instagram user said, "I tried it because it's a trend these days," and "I didn't know who I was. “Am I really like this?" "Do this." and showed curiosity about her true identity and recommended the test to her friends.
Finally, Multi persona times brings the trends of 'Gender Neutral', that people want to choose their products only according to their individual tastes not by a gender. Unlike the previous ‘Unisex’ choosing a product that suits both men and women, ‘Gender Neutral’ completely breaks down stereotypes about gender and only values individuality and personal tastes. In other words, Unisex mainly releases men's and women's products within a brand at the same time, but Gender Neutral never distinguish between men's and women's styles. It lets people show off their various Personas without being locked in a traditional gender identity. Gucci chose the fashion show theme of the 2019 F/W collection ‘Persona’ and tried to show the double sides of a human being who becomes a completely different person through the persona. In this fashion show, models had ambiguous atmosphere with no gender division and even their faces were difficult to recognize. It shows the trend of choosing products based on the self, without the gender identity. Also, In the performance world, Gender Neutral Casting is spreading like a trend. In February 2019, the musical <The Devil>, based on the legend of Faust in Germany, got attention with its gender neutral casting. It was in the spotlight because the female actor, Cha Ji-yeon played the role that only a male actor had played before, and not only that, she played both role 'X-White' and 'X-Black'. Commentator Kim So-yeon said, "The positive thing about 'Gender Neutral Casting' is it does not look at a character as a concept of gender, but as a ‘human’.”
The Multi Persona's concerns and outlooks
In the future, Multi Persona may raise concerns about digital mythomania. On the other hand it may lead to the development of super personalization technology. Unlike in the real world, Online people can express their ideal personas. This makes ‘Digital mythomania’ which tries to show sides of the self that are different side from the real self by directing and editing and presenting only good scenes of the self on SNS. The feature of Mythomania is that the liar believes his lies to be true. Meanwhile, online people post only boastful contents on their SNS because of the obsession with ‘Likes’ or ‘Hits’ to be recognized by others, and finally believing, dangerously, that their Persona is real. Namely, ignoring reality, they cling to the online persona and trying to fill the emptiness inside with illusions. In fact, Professor Na Kyung-se who is a professor of psychiatry at Gachon University’s Gil Hospital said “Many patients asked for counseling because they feel liar’s guilt because of continuously posting false contents on SNS.” Moreover, if you live with a variety of identities without inner feelings, you can be susceptible to emotional control when faced with an unexpected situation or trauma that requires you to show your true inner self. To overcome this Digital mythomania, you need to try to recognize various identities and think about who you really are.
Despite the concerns about Digital mythomania, ‘Super personalization technology’ targeting various individual identities is expected to be developed in these Multi persona times. Consumers who have various personas are no longer coherent buyers; they become multifaceted by changing tastes and preferences according to situations and contexts. Personalization technology provides customized contents based on basic personal information and data. On the other hand, super personalization technology leads users to consumption with appropriate messages in appropriate situations and timing based on real life patterns and taste information as well as user data. In other words, it is possible to provide services and products by understanding situations and contexts of consumers and by predicting customers’ demand. In November 2019, KT released an application ‘Seezn’ with ‘Recommending Content Service based on emotional analysis’ and it came into the limelight by surpassing 3 million users in the month after its launch. The Seezn’s special feature ‘Scanner Search’ analyzes the user’s facial expressions and recommends the best content for the context and situation. It is also possible to get personalization recommendations with Topping engine that analyzes and provides various big data such as usage history, day of the week, time of day and weather. When users click on the emotion scan banner on the search page, they can receive recommendations for the content that best matches their emotions. In fact, for users who are happy, ‘Happy virus BOOM! For you, I’ll recommend a healing romance drama ‘Eccentric! Chef Moon,’’ and for users who are space out, ‘I’ll recommend the lyrical movie ‘From the Land of the Moon’ that matches the calm feeling.’ In this way, in the time of Multi Persona, super personalization technology that targets individuals according to context will continue to developed.
In the Multi Persona Times, modern people each have each different according to various situations and context. In this era, people can show their various individual identities, but there are some concerns such as Digital mythomania. Nevertheless, if you find a true self through various identities, you will be able to live a variety of different lives from before.
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