Me, Myself & I: Who are you really, when you’re online?

When interacting online I think it’s important to self-reflect. Many people, myself included, act differently when they are “logged in” and posting things on social media. During the elections I found that many of my soft spoken friends were fierce as lions when talking about why they supported so-and-so for President. I am often shocked by the pictures people post or the things they “tweet” when they can hide behind a computer.

People often fail to realize that what they post online isn’t truly a post; it is something that is “published” online and it will be available forever. Once something is uploaded to the great server in the sky, anyone can access that picture, RSS thread or post with enough Google searching.

Video games that allow people to interact in real time can become addicting quickly. An avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character (1). Many people create characters that are better looking, taller or physically stronger than they really are. People use social media, games, chat rooms, and other forms of online interactions to be who they truly wish they were. The interesting thing about this dynamic is that people interact with avatars using the same social protocols that can be found in the real world. For example, more attractive people speak closer to people and share intimate details about their lives more openly in social settings. In the virtual world, more attractive avatars exhibit the same behavior (article 15).

I think how people act online is how they wish they could act in real life. Having a barrier there, the computer, protects people from rejection or discrimination; therefore, people feel liberated. Being able to be anything you want to be, say anything you want to say, and act anyway you want, without legal ramifications, can be very appealing.

Where this gets gray is when people spend more time in a virtual world then they do in the real world.


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