Unified Dave Theory

Andy Kaufman: You don’t know the real me.
Lynne Margulies: There isn’t a real you.
Andy Kaufman: Oh yeah, I forgot.
— Man On The Moon

When I first heard that exchange in the commercial for the movie Man On The Moon, it resonated with me, a lot. I very much felt that way about myself. There was no real me.

A friend of mine posted those lines on Facebook the other day, and it reminded me that I needed to write the post I’d been planning, on how I found myself through social media.

I considered it one of my strengths as a reporter, how easily I could fit into what ever situation I was in. I noticed it in college; I could have a great evening enjoying kitschy Japanese cinema with one friend one evening, and be someone else entirely with another friend the next. In newspapers, it gave me the ability to be “one of us” working with a variety of sources; I just sort of fit wherever I happened to be.

Four years ago, if you knew David Hitt, who you knew would depend on where you knew him. There was the upstanding, proper guy you would meet at church on Sunday morning. The knowledgeable space geek you would encounter at work. The clever wit at improv rehearsal.

Around the time that movie came out, I did feel like there was no real me. All of the things I was were true, but none of them was the truth. None of them overlapped with the others, and none of them was more me than the others.

I got married, and the person I was with my wife became the “real me.” Who I really was was the person I was at home every night. I was that person more than any other, that person seemed less like an expediency than any other, so that was the real me. There were still several versions of me — work me and church me and whatever else still existed — but I knew which one was “real me.”

And then I got divorced. Which had two major impacts on the idea of the real me. First, I lost that grounding. Without a wife, the real me couldn’t be the person I was with her. Second, I lost that identity. The real me was married. He was her husband. He was her niece’s uncle. Key elements of who the “real me” was just evaporated.

Today I have a better sense of self than I ever have. What happened between then and now? Three things:

First, and most importantly, I’ve gotten to know myself better. I have a better sense of who David Hitt is to identify the various traits that are intrinsic to who I am. I’ve come to have a better sense of who God thinks I am, and those things are, without question, the real me. Whatever He thinks, chances are, He’s right.

Second, my participation in Face2Face Improv has had a huge impact on me. Making a fool of myself on stage has made me less self-conscious; doing it well has made me more self-confident. I’m more willing to be myself in any situation, which lets me break down the walls between different versions of me and carry traits over. The traits that become more universal are the things that define the real me.

But — and this is the one that’s most fascinating to me — then there’s Facebook. And Twitter and my blog and so forth, but I think it started with Facebook.

On Facebook, there’s only one me. And that one me is friends with people from every part of my life. My family. Fellow church members. Members of churches I used to attend. High school classmates. Improv troupemates. Coworkers. College friends. My counselor. Former employees of former employers.

And that one me shares updates about all different parts of my life. Most of those pictures above have been my profile picture at some point. They’re all different versions of me, but they’re all me — the author, the iPhone addict, the improv troupe member, the hiker, the NASA education writer, the church member, the Ole Miss alum, the loving uncle, the actor.

The thing that Facebook does that changes the rules is bring those things together. Back in the day, the people who went to church with proper, respectable David wouldn’t see him making a fool of himself at improv the night before. The people I work with wouldn’t see me hiking the Walls of Jericho. Nobody but family got to see Uncle David. And things like broken engagements didn’t play out for the entire world to see.

But now, everybody sees everything. Improv people don’t just see improv David; they see the guy that geeks out about seeing shuttle launches, does a whole lot of writing trying to figure out this God thing, enjoys spending time on a mountain, and occasionally gets to do cool things like hang out with astronauts.

And those things — the combination of all those things — that now everyone gets to see are me.

The real me.

3 Responses

  1. David:

    I’ve always had a very good handle on “who I am.” The challenge of FB, for me, is that I learned that I preferred to keep my life compartmentalized. I’m not keen on the notion of my family knowing what I’m doing in my free time, nor my church friends getting all the low-down on what’s going on with my job. Either they don’t understand the contexts sometimes or I just prefer that they not know. Putting everyone into the same fish tank, for an introvert-at-heart like me, is like inviting everybody I know to a party. It’s too overwhelming, too noisy, too intrusive. There are just some folks that I prefer to keep at arm’s length for this purpose or that, while others can have “full access.” My theory being, if I haven’t shared a particular fact about myself with a specific person or group of persons, that’s because I consider said fact none of their d@mned business. That is also why I don’t share every little thing about myself on FB, my blog, etc.

    That’s just me, of course. I’m glad you’re finding yourself getting comfortable with integrating the various pieces of your life into one tapestry. I prefer to change channels occasionally rather than throw everything into one pot. And that, I suppose, is me.


  2. I’ve actually had a similar experience with FB that I’ve been meaning to write about. For me it hasn’t necessarily been the sharing all the different parts of my life. It’s more of an acceptance thing. Being “friends” again with people I thought I’d left behind or hadn’t seen in years, and seeing that they (like me) have all become far different versions of what we were… I guess it’s just helped me accept that I’m not who I thought I’d be.

    That, and I’m not the only one that got fat and/or bald after high school 🙂

  3. Bart — Yeah, if I were going to be honest, there’s still probably a decent bit of “branding” that goes on. I don’t compartmentalize as much as I did, but, at the same time, I kind of make sure I stay on message with what I do say.

    Christian — Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, there’s a similar blog post I want to write at some point, on my theory that Facebook is auto-correcting for changes in society. People in my grandparents’ generation generally did a pretty good job of keeping up with people; a lot of the people they went to school with stayed in the same area and stayed in touch. With my parents’ generation, people became more mobile, and it became harder to keep up with people. Now, with my generation, technology allows a combination of the mobility of my parents but the connectivity of my grandparents.

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