I still have to look up “goblin mode” each time I read it. I’ve been reading it quite a bit because it was Oxford University Press’ word of the year for 2022. Throwing voting open to the public for the first time, goblin mode was overwhelmingly chosen, edging out my personal favorite, “metaverse.” (It’s not every day that a word your brother-in-law invented gets that kind of accolade!) But goblin mode is in the Zeitgeist. It means to live an unkempt existence, perhaps hedonistically, without caring what others think. It is, of course one of the offspring of the Covid-19 pandemic and its lock-downs. Like social distancing, it’s something some of us had done before we knew what it was called. But only partially. I have a mental self-image that I don’t allow myself to show because I don’t like being judged. I’d be safer in the metaverse, perhaps.
Somewhat a natural hermit, I do crave human company and, like most people, I worry about what others think of me. The thing is, people are natural actors. We keep our goblins well hidden, usually. Social life is quite different from the moments we spend alone. Goblins are, of course, a type of monster. Somewhat undefined and malleable, they can be compared to demons or fairies. They do tend to be associated with households, which may make their use with this phrase appropriate. Goblins tend to be thought of as ugly, thus goblin mode is letting your “ugliness” take over, no matter who may see. You could be in permanent goblin mode in the metaverse, though.
I have to admit that such things make me feel my age. The lessons of conformity, even though I was born in the sixties, were pretty deeply impressed. “Do you want other people to see you like that?” I wonder if we’re not all insecure at some level—it’s our primate inheritance. Going into goblin mode, then, is striking back at the natural human acting ability. It comes at a time when the message of not judging is also prevalent. In the metaverse, as it was first used in Snow Crash, you chose an avatar that could look like anything you wanted. I suppose that’s a form of goblin mode too. We are natural actors. Watch people in a crowd sometime. Or at the office. Or even at home, if they’re not alone. If other eyes are watching the question always remains “do you want others to see you like that?” And what we see is probably not authentic.