Phil Friedman

7 years ago · 5 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Phil blog
Living In Third Person

Living In Third Person

Living In Third Person


Preface:  This series of somewhat self-indulgent literary and philosophical reflections began with "Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination", and in this installment, I question why, and to what extent so many of us have begun to see ourselves only as though we were looking at ourselves from the outside. Links to the previous articles in the series will be found at the end of this post, should you be moved by this one to sample them.

Admittedly, speaking of oneself in the third person is an affectation into which I have fallen from time to time. For example, in writing one of the many editions of my resume, and in bios sent to editors along with article drafts, and to coordinators of conferences at which I have been schedule to speak.

Phil Friedman has some 30 years hands-on experience in...

I've also used third person when describing my background and experience on various of my websites —  although my accumulating experience in marketing on social media and the Internet has brought me to increasingly abandon the practice.

I am not alone. A very significant number of people talk about themselves in the third person, in similar circumstances, and indeed, in a wide variety of other circumstances. However, that is not what I want to talk about here.

What I want to talk about here is a growing phenomenon best described as  "living in the third person "...

I am sure you're familiar with reports and stories of "out-of-body" experiences. These are purported to be events in which someone's consciousness —  soul, spirit, ghost, whatever —  supposedly leaves his or her body and floats somewhere above it, watching what is happening to, and around that person.

Such purported incidents are usually connected to some traumatic injury, sometimes involving momentary heart stoppage or coma. As in most things having to do with the "paranormal", the precise details  of each case are frequently not available. However, that which is is consistent in all reports of this kind of incident is the switch over to a third person point of view, where the subject no longer directly experiences the situation, but watches itand him- or herselffrom some external vantage point.

Don't get me wrong, and start sending me all the messages you're receiving from your dear departed grandmother, or accounts of cold drafts blowing through your house, doors opening and slamming by themselves, or strange moans in the night. Especially not strange moans in the nightwhich could simply be your neighbor watching cable  porno TV with the with the volume set too high.

Real or simply perceived, out-of-body experiences are eerily similar to what is happening to social media devotees...

What I am talking about here is something much more earthly. Something that has to do with our brains, and the way we think.

Some philosophers, myself included, believe that the way in which someone speaks, its logical structure in a broad sense, models his or her conceptual framework In other words, that one's use of language is a window into the way one thinks.

The other side of this coin, I suggest, is that the manner of speaking which someone adopts can, after a period of time, restructure the way that person thinks. And that, consequently, the habits of speech we exhibit are not only observable symptoms of how we experience the world, but actively work to filter and restructure how we experience the world.

Continually speaking of yourself in the third person can lead to thinking of, and seeing yourself in the third person...

So, you ask, what's the problem with the problem with that, big guy?

The problem is that it enables you to separate and isolate yourself from first-person awareness of your authenticor as we used to say, existentialbeing. It also facilitates your misrepresentation of yourself not only to others, but to yourself.

How else to explain the incredible propensity of people on social media sites like LinkedIn or beBee to puff themselves up beyond credulity? To give themselves inflated titles and descriptions, like Thought Leader, Innovation Guru, Paradigm Terminator, or ... whatever?  How else do you explain the ubiquitous practice on social media for everyone who is out of a job to designate him- or herself an entrepreneur? Or a CEO of a one-person company that has zero, or nearly no gross sales revenues and no active marketing activities?

What do people get out of representing themselves in a fantastic way? Surely, they are not so naive as to think anyone believes their bull chips. Or do they?

I suggest that, when you see yourself in the third person, you can filter out a lot of what you know "deep down" about yourself. You can treat yourself as you would a stranger, accepting at face value what you say about yourself. Just as you accept at face value what others say about themselves.

But that's not all. Most people underestimate themselves. Even those who appear as megalomaniacs often harbor self-doubts on an existential level. Self-doubts that are only felt when looking outward from an authentic first-person vantage point. Self-doubts that do not arise when looking inward from the outside, as when examining other people.

There is no doubt that seeing yourself as others see you —  that is, from a third-person perspectivecan become habitual...

Imagine being fitted always with a virtual-reality rig that, via a series of cameras, gives you at all times only an image of yourself as you are seen by others. (This application of virtual-reality gadgets is not made up.)  Imagine further going about your life's activities this way, and how you would have to retrain your brain so that you could perform the common activities of daily life: drink from a cup, write a note on a piece of paper with a pen, comb your hair, and so on. And think about the difference in the perceptual corrections that you would have to make to your kinesthetic movements.

The point here is not that it would be so difficult to adapt, but rather that you would probably adapt quite readily and rapidly. Living "outside your body" would start to feel natural very quickly. For the brain is an amazingly adaptable organ.

And that is what so many are doing on social media — retraining themselves to see themselves in third person...

It starts with finding positive feedback in the form of likes from people who view your photos and comments, then progresses as you fine tune how you present yourself in order to increase the amount of "liking", then to creating a puffed up persona that is again fine tuned to what you believe will find the highest positive reaction. If along the way you find yourself more comfortable with the filtered third-person view of yourself than with that annoyingly candid first-person perspective, you start to live more and more in third-person until.. you assign greater reality to looking inward from the outside than to looking outward from within.

Is what I've said here the product of long scientific study? Hardly. Could it be a suggestion for future study? I believe so. Indeed, some related research concerning the effects of social media participation on rewiring our brains has already been ongoing for several years, with initial reports now being released which do not bode well.

However, whether scientific theory or socio-philosophical speculation, what I've said here is, I submit, in the main true. And I recommend that if you find yourself in Third Person, you get back into your vehicle and get the hell out of town as fast as you can.Phil Friedman


Authors Notes:  This piece is the seventh in a series of philosophical reflections which I've dubbed "The Road Chronicles" because they are organized around the metaphor of travel along a road. If you would like to read one or more of the previous installments of the series, they can be found at:

"LinkedIn Is a Highway, Not a Destination"

"Cynicism Can Be the Final Refuge of Idealism"

"Reaching Beyond Me"

"Do Not Mistake What Is For What Should Be"

"The Syndrome of the Long Goodby"

"Finding Your Way Past Self-Reflection to Action"

If you'd  like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

About me, Phil Friedman:  With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.

Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Images Credits:  Phil Friedman, and Google Images


Wayne Yoshida

5 years ago #28

LMFAO, too funny, Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #27

The problem, Wayne Yoshida, is that if you did that, you might get ahead of yourself. ROFLMAOAICGU. Cheers, bud!

Wayne Yoshida

5 years ago #26

Ah. Mix in present tense with this third person thing and that could be an amazing transformation, Phil Friedman

Lada 🏡 Prkic

7 years ago #25

I know that Phil. I just put forward my standpoint regarding speaking and writing profile summary in third person. Thanks for answering.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #24

Thank you Lada Prkic, CEng, for reading and commenting. I apologize for taking so long to answer, but your comment here is one I missed. I need to point out, however, that I am strictly talking about writing about oneself in third person, rather than first person. When an author writes a novel and about character in third person, that is an entirely different matter. I am not sure that it should be called third person, but rather third person point of view. Cheers!

Lada 🏡 Prkic

7 years ago #23

It's very interesting post Phil Friedman. I don't see the purpose of speaking in third person in real life. The only "person" I like to hear speaking that way is Hercule Poirot. His explanation for doing that is - It helps Poirot to keep a distance from his genius. So, maybe people who use this way of distancing themselves have an exaggerated view of how great they are (just my opinion). Many politicians do it (!). On the other side, when writers use the third-person point of view it creates a kind of objectivity, which is appropriate in conveying information and arguments. Nonetheless, I've always wondered why people write a profile summary on LI or beBee in this way, even though it is considered the correct way of writing a CV. But that's me.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #22

Thank you, Donna-Luisa Eversley, for reading and commenting. WE are amused.. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #21

Lisa Gallagher - in any event, it is not for me about speaking in third person, but about thinking and seeing oneself from a third person point of view. For this leads often, to believing one's own bull chjps. Cheers!

Lisa Gallagher

7 years ago #20

Maybe thats my problem Phil Friedman, I'm drinking some wine... shall I try a beer? haha. Ok, I understand now! I told you I can be slow and as you put it, "The Royal We," is very annoying.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #19

Geez, Lisa, put your feet up and have a beer. Send me the tab. My only point was that the only affectation more annoying than speaking of oneself in the third person, is the use of the Royal we. Unless, as Mark Twain pointed out, you happen to have a tapeworm.

Lisa Gallagher

7 years ago #18

Phil Friedman, it's late- I'm slow... [insert laugh] are you insinuating you didn't find my comment funny or was your comment a general comment? Remember I get confused easily at times!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #17

Well, Lisa Gallagher, let's consider, then, the Royal "we" -- for with your comment, WE are not amused. Cheers!

Lisa Gallagher

7 years ago #16

Enjoyed reading this post Phil Friedman. Lisa has never felt comfortable talking of herself in third person. However, Lisa takes no issue with those who do.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #15

Thank you, David Grinberg, for sharing this post. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #14

Thank you, Robyn Shulman, for sharing this post. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #13

Michael Angelo Icarus Yusufidis - Allow me to quote one of my intellectual mentors: Do not mistake inscrutability for depth of thought. Thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #12

Thank you for taking the time to say so, Robyn Shulman. Cheers!

Gert Scholtz

7 years ago #11

Phil Friedman But then F Scott Fitzgerald said: "Character is plot, plot is character" (Note to myself: go figure...)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #10

@Gert Scholtz - Thank you for reading and commenting, and for the kind words. A bit of advice, though: A watched plot never thickens. ... Or something like that. Cheers!

Gert Scholtz

7 years ago #9

Phil Friedman. What a treat to read your posts - with its psychological and philosophical content. I watched myself enjoy it :)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #8

Reena Saxena, I agree that some inflate their descriptions of themselves in order to "fake it until they make it" (Richard Branson, in print on LinkedIn), and that they speak of themselves in the third person in order to lend those descriptions an air of realism and authority, almost as though those descriptions are from an independent third-party authority. I think we understand that, because I think we understand the motivations of the scammer. What we don't understand is the person who devolves into permanent self-delusion. Thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #7

Thank you Franci Eugenia Hoffman, for sharing this post. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #6

The author of the article thanks you for reading and commenting, Brian McKenzie.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #5

Paul \, you've got that one right. How about using the designation OEO == Only Executive Officer? You are also correct that CEO -- a term originated and popularized in the U.S. and, I think, Canada, is NOT a legal title in corporate law. President, Director, Vice President, Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer are, but not Chief Executive Officer. Thanks for reading and commenting.
I find this fascinating, Phil Friedman. I haven't thought of writing in the third person. I have noticed some writers sign off in third person. Instead of "I am a retired commercial lines underwriter..., the wording may be "Franci Hoffman is a retired commercial lines underwriter... Thank you and Sharing.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #3

Thank you, Federico \u00c1lvarez San Mart\u00edn, for sharing this. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #2

Thank you Pascal Derrien, for sharing this post. My best to you both. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #1

The seventh in the series, for your consideration... Cheers to all who are on the road together, whatever our respective destinations may beBee... Javier C\u00e1mara Rica,

Articles from Phil Friedman

View blog
5 years ago · 4 min. reading time


5 years ago · 3 min. reading time


5 years ago · 3 min. reading time


Related professionals

You may be interested in these jobs

  • Shelby County Schools

    Professional Learning Advisor

    Found in: Lensa US P 2 C2 - 2 days ago

    Shelby County Schools Memphis, United States

    Purpose and Scope: · The Professional Learning Advisor will meet two needs, providing teachers, school leaders, and content leads with a range of relevant professional learning opportunities, and pro ...

  • Encompass Health

    Occupational Therapist- PART-TIME

    Found in: Jooble US S2 - 1 day ago

    Encompass Health Lynn Haven, FL, United States Part time

    Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital Panama City · FT and PRN positions available, must have a valid FL license. · Following them throughout their stay, you'll work with the latest technologies ...

  • WilliamsonHeckt

    CMO - Own your own Franchise

    Found in: Jooble US S2 - 17 hours ago

    WilliamsonHeckt Lantana, TX, United States

    Do you want to own your own business? · You are not alone, approximately 85% of the new franchise owners were professionals transitioning out of the corporate grind, and 25-30% keep their job and run ...