I think we form identities based on the space available to us. In new groups, whether we realize it or not, we are searching for roles to play, and if anyone already has that role. This is why, regardless of size or makeup, there is always a class clown, an introvert, a jock, etc. It’s the same with roommates: the one who doesn’t ever leave the room and is a little different, the one everyone goes to with his or her problems, the one who loves and orchestrates games, the musician. Naturally, we hold multiple identities in these groups, and we exhibit multiple identities as we cross from one group into another. But, if we’ve been the genius in an old group and meet a brighter genius in our new group, suddenly we must try another tact: we tell stories, or show our authenticity, or put some spin on what we’ve done in the past to forge a new identity–formed out of our personalities and the personalities displayed around us.
Thus, it’s not simply an internal disposition when we feel unrooted, unsure how to exhibit our identities. It is also an external symptom of a transient, mirco-fractured culture. When our groups of belonging are always in flux, we are always in flux.