Saturday, March 28, 2009

Who Are You? Anonymity and Identity

If there’s one thing the Internet does better than other communications media, it’s making anonymous communication possible. But what effect does this anonymity have on our online identities?

The whole idea of identity on the Internet centres on anonymity—it almost presupposes it. Imagine firing up your web browser and having every site you visit know your name, address and phone number.

Hate to break it to you, but…We can do it. We have the technology!

But the key here is that most of us don’t know that. We usually feel pretty secure in our anonymity online, and that’s what allows us to feel like we can experiment with our identities. We have the (somewhat mistaken) impression that we can do what we want online with relative impunity.

Well, that sure explains the preponderance of porn sites online.

To some degree, online identity is anonymity. At least, that’s what we think. So what does it mean to have an identity of anonymity?

It means a decrease in inhibition and shyness. It allows many opportunities to experiment and play. It changes the way we interact with each other. It even changes the way we think about ourselves. If we look at our identities as being the result of our performance, then our performances online are no different than our performances in real-life. They all affect the way we think and act, it just depends on the medium we use to do so.

All this time we’ve been talking about how real-life identities affect our online ones, but what about the ways in which online identities affect real-life ones?

Maybe the lessons we learn online do have some real-life consequences.

The times, they are a changing. It used to be that the best conversations always occur when the lights are out. Now maybe the best conversations occur when the computer’s on.

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