Our real selves are just fake masks, empty husks we inhabit lifelessly.
Above is the paradox of double lives for being the real you and the “ideal you”. This is also investigated in the film “The Truman Show”. The hero (Jim Carey) finds out that the world he lives is an enormous television stage set airing 24/7. Everything that happens are just illusions, including the sky and the stars. Every person in his life are just actors, even his girlfriend.
The story is quite similar to people whose done searching for a virtual identity. Sometimes what they have created are just illusions of what they wanted to be.
Clearing the Lines
Sometimes, as people enter the virtual world, they are in search of a virtual identity that would fit the environment they are at. This will cause them to invent things about them. It’s the “who am I on the website? and what should I be on this world?” questions that will come up on a person’s mind.
The “ideal you” is usually formed in online virtual communities such as social networks, chat rooms and online games. A virtual identity is a created or adopted identity that is different from what they have in real life. This cyber self is specific to the Internet. There is a freer self-definition so one can create a character with better looks and enhanced social, family and educational backgrounds. The things that they do and say might be quite different from what they really are.
Real vs. Ideal
Virtual identity offers more flexibility that is why many people are enjoying once they’ve created one. A person can express different sides of him/her and can also exaggerate it. People can also escape the social constraints of life whenever they are in a “screen-bounded” environment.
Take for example the case in the book “Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators” by Robert Cooper and Tracy Spaight— a professor in his 50’s is teaching public policy and law in real life. However he is an online game fanatic. In search of a virtual identity that he will use, he decided to create an identity of a little girl everytime he is playing. He said, he wanted to maintain the illusion about that girl because females are treated better in games.
Role of Social Networks
Online social networks that are being used now by millions of people can be considered as a part of everyone’s lifestyle. In these online communities, describing yourself and other needed information on the profile part is one of the “wildly” answered by users. Why? Because the freedom there is as I’ve said, a user can reinvent everything about him/her. The things about them can be quite different as they are from what they are used to, their passion, their genre and the like.
Rationale: Why go virtual?
Much for explanations, we have to know why people are engaging into this search-then-create-my-virtual-identity.
No Fear-A common aspect is that people can present themselves without fear of any persecution. The online identity has also given people the opportunity to feel comfortable in wide-ranging roles. Users can also express their own opinions and interests.
Power to Change-Virtual identity can help users to transform and hide the parts of their personality which they feel should not be known by others.
A New Society-Friendships can be developed using these identities. Some people who feel they cannot make face-to-face conversations can now do it by just going online. Furthermore, relationships can also arise for those who seek romantic relations. Those lacking with confidence can have the opportunity using their new identity. It’s a kind of modern version of courtly love, yet some people patronize it.
As per that, virtual identity cannot be considered as a negative response after all.
Going back to the paradox, the truth can be observed. Isn’t the “ideal us” sometimes more real than we are? The evoke part of ourselves that we do not allow to come up in our everyday lives? We might realize that the person we created in the virtual world might be the real us, yet we are afraid to show because we are afraid of discrimination, comments and reactions from others.
By now, I’ll live you all this quote: “Identity is always a moving category, always a shape-shifter. As soon as we think we have it pinned down and classified, it re-emerges as something else.”
*this is an unpublished feature article for my school’s student pub*
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