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On the Internet, no one knows you're a frumpy, uncharismtic shy person.

I nearly always create some sort of fake identity for online use, and after reading all of Turkle's accounts of people who are so heavily invested in their online lives and multiple identities (to the point of outright obsession), I wonder if part of it is that I can imagine myself getting "sucked in". If a website requires that I register before I can view the page's content, I submit ridiculous information, partly as a disguise, and partly in hopes that someone, somewhere will get the message that I don't appreciate attempts to collect information about me. I have never used an avatar, and I admit I've always found them to be sort of silly, but I've realized that in situations like this very blog, avatars would help me remember who's who.

Like some others have mentioned, I was also sort of shocked at the amount of real money that moves around as a result of Second Life. I can't really relate to the desire to pay for a cartoon on a screen, but I guess if shopping for cartoon land and clothes helps people exorcise their consumeristic urges without having to actually go out and buy a bunch of stuff, I'm all for it. In Aspects of the Self, Turkle quotes a college student who admits there is a part of him that is like the violent characters he creates, and an online identity is a relatively harmless space to act out. (p.190) I'm sure we could all agree that however upsetting a personal attack in an online environment may be, it's infinitely better than having to experience/witness such antisocial behaviors in real life. And it's not as if social consequenses don't exist online-- I spent some time looking at the police blotter in the Community section of the Second Life board, and it seemed like the most common crimes were the use of weapons in the wrong space, sexual harrassment, and spamming. The listed transgressors were punished by being denied access to the site for a period of a few days, and presumably would be welcome to return if they mended their ways.

Comments

Hi Rose: Thoughtful post. I liked the sentence about "shopping for cartoon land and clothes." I have trouble relating to this world either.

I wonder if aggressive or sexual impulses are dissipated or exacerbated when acted out online. There has always been the debate that pornography increases sexual violence, while other believe it keeps criminals at home, looking and not acting.

What do you think? Or does it depend on the crime/criminal?

Hi Rose: Thoughtful post. I liked the sentence about "shopping for cartoon land and clothes." I have trouble relating to this world either.

I wonder if aggressive or sexual impulses are dissipated or exacerbated when acted out online. There has always been the debate that pornography increases sexual violence, while other believe it keeps criminals at home, looking and not acting.

What do you think? Or does it depend on the crime/criminal?

Hi, I agree with you about not giving out my real info. when questioned to go into a site. I just make things up myself, it doesn't seem to make a difference. I myself have never made an avatar either, I just don't really see the fun in wasting time in a virtual, fake, 3D enviornment. Taking to people face to face is much more enjoyable.

I myself was shocked and I really couldn't believe all the real money that was being spent in Second Life, I was just blown away by the article saying that some people have made over a million dollars selling virtual property online. That's crazy, I just can't get over that fact. I will have to check out the police blotter section of half life, I hadn't noticed it.

Good points in your post!

Dissipated or exacerbated... I don't really know. I thought about that porn argument too, but one difference is that there are those (virtual) consequenses for violence/harrassment. The attacker is forced to deal with their victim and with the community, rather than vicariously enjoy sex or violence without any consequenses. Porn (I'm thinking of movies, mainly) manufactures eroticism, (what sex is 'supposed' to be, how men and women are 'supposed' to look and interact), and I think it's a positive thing when people are able to practice creating those ideas for themselves, even if only in a virtual world.

It reminds me of how I've heard people talk about how racism is as bad here in Minnesota as anywhere, and that hidden/suppressed racism is more destructive than overt racism, because at least then you know what you're dealing with-- there's a place to begin a dialogue. I think that MUDs & Second Life offer a way to see how our fellow humans act when they shed their inhibitions. Part of me is glad to know how ugly and excellent people choose to be.

What do YOU think?

Reading your comments I realized that yes I do have online identities. When signing up for an acct, I never give the correct information. Even for the accts needed for our assignments, I don't use anything associated with my personal life.