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December 24, 2008

Sharp dressed man

Filed under: General,Perspective — Tags: , , , — Bryan @ 9:46 am

In the on-line world something amazing happened. Anonymity.

In actuality, true anonymity on the Internet is a rare commodity. Just because you created a MySpace page with the username PuppyHunter342 and posted a photo of your neighbor’s cat on your profile, doesn’t mean someone can’t figure out who you are with enough resources. But just like the plastic lock on a file cabinet, it’s enough to keep the passing acquaintance from finding out.

In practice though many researchers have found that the key problem this has created (in part) is that people feel more liberated to show their at home self in public, or in many cases project their internal voice out into their communications much like a free writing exercise. You don’t know me, I don’t know you and in fact I may not even exist beyond the words you’re reading on this page, so the sense of social repercussions never even comes into play if you decide to write a rant in the comments. At worst, in some peoples minds, they’re simply writing a comment to someone. Not generating yet one more piece of electronic documentation for forming their online identity.

Beyond that, I personally think this may happen because most people interact on the Internet from home on in the privacy of their office space where they are conversing or thinking with their family/internal tone and then using that same voice as they type. This probably wasn’t the best thing to happen.

People like to categorize things as I mentioned at the start of this series. You’re going to be categorized, like it not, so why handicap yourself out of the gate. This is a hard lesson that most people only understand much too late when it comes to living an on-line life (oh nooes, that Facebook photo of you puking from a drunken stupor at that party may come back to haunt you some day).

When you think about it, while this perceived anonymity is a double edged sword it also presents humanity with an amazing gift. The ability to transcend preconceived stereotypes… Well… as long as you’re thoughtful of what you write and where you write it. But even then other people will still try to stereotype you (from casual observation, to academic review).

The perfect example of this self definition would be the growing realm of Virtual Worlds. You can be tall, short, male, female, black, white, green or purple. You can be an extremely unpopular person in the real world, but in a virtual world you can be that Sharp Dressed Man who is eloquent and has all the right connections. Nobody ever has to know unless you tell them.

Most people don’t think about all of this when the venture out to the wide world of the Internet but it’s even more important now than ever to be aware of this issue because of my next point…

…Persistence…

[read the other parts of this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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