Well, honestly, I did not even realize that “Frontstage” and “Backstage” behavior is an age-old concept. It unknowingly is being practiced by humankind. The realization did not happen until I read “The Presentation of Self in everyday life”.
It’s right what they say – “The world is your stage”. Our behavior has patterns and most of us do not realize it.
Introduction – Frontstage, Backstage and Off Stage behavior
For now, we will just concentrate on Frontstage and Backstage behavior. “Offstage” does not really apply to us but only the actors.
This is a way to understand how humans interact. It is the study that tells us life is a performance and we are the participants participating in it. Both frontstage and backstage. These are caused by the setting of the situation. I will throw some more light on it as we proceed. It is an affected behavior. So basically – It is affected by the time and place in which it occurs as well as by the audience present to witness it. Apart from that, it is also affected by the values, norms, beliefs and cultural practices of an individual.
Frontstage behavior –
We as social beings play different roles in our daily lives and behave differently depending on the occasion and the situation. Majority of us consciously or unconsciously behave in contrasting ways in our professional lives versus our personal lives and party and friendship lives.
“Front stage” behavior is what we do when we are being watched or when others are aware of us. For example – how you behave and interact with an audience. Front stage behavior also includes the amount of effort we put in our appearance to make the impression. This type of behavior typically follows a routinized and learned social script shaped by cultural norms.
To be more specific – Boarding a taxi, bus, train, entering a park, waiting in line for something, having a conversation with colleagues are examples of highly routinized and scripted front stage behaviors.
Frontstage behavior is shown both in high public places and less public places too. For example, how you behave in a classroom as a student or at a private meeting or at a doctor’s clinic or while grocery shopping in an almost empty store being watched just by 5 people.
Whatever the setting may be, we are aware of how others perceive us and what they expect of us. This knowledge influences how we behave and also how we dress.
Backstage Behavior –
This basically means how we behave when no one is watching us or at least we think that no one is watching us. It is a behavior which is freed from the expectations and norms. Being at home and at work is the clearest demarcation of the difference between front and backstage behavior. Here we let down our guard. Here we are our uninhibited selves. We cast off elements of our appearance required for the front stage. Like our clothes or even the way we speak.
Now here is the thing. Even when we are backstage, we rehearse certain behaviors. We do this to prepare ourselves for upcoming frontstage interactions. Like – our presentation, a first date, smiling for the camera, handshake, the way we sit. We also practice the way we walk, look at our movements etc. So this means that even when we are backstage, we are aware of the norms and expectations. And these again influence our backstage behavior.
The backstage of the backstage –
In personal lives we often live with a someone, it could be a roommate, housemate, spouses, family etc. We observe different rules and customs with each one of them. So we behave accordingly to please the team we interact with.
It is quite confusing. Isn’t it? But the reality of it all is that we unconsciously fall prey to these behavior types because of the world we are living in. A lot of us do not even realize and never even question the existence but when you look at it close, you will know it. We work really hard to make sure that these two realms remain separate.