The Virtual Self

As I was looking at my contacts on my msn’s window, I started to think about the capacity that new technologies have to help us create secondary identities. Internet in particular has a huge role to play in this process. Indeed, on websites that propose to the user to create a profile they offer tools that help people to create a virtual avatar. Profile’s picture, personal description, shape the person’s identity on internet. As internet makes people from all over the world interacting with each other, the need to differentiate a user from an other is important and without it, social networks could not be.

I am particularly interested in avatar creation that does not necessarily try to render acurately the person’s identity in real life, because it involves the concept of escapism. Who has never dreamt about incarnating someone or something else than himself? This (sometimes) strong appeal is expressed more than ever on internet. This form of escapism is to be questioned because of its effects on our real self. As I said earlier, we are given tools to create our virtual self. We can be impressed by the possibilities they give to perform such an act but compared to our natural capacity that is imagination, they are actually full of limits. And here is my first point: internet is a system that was invented in the western world. It is, despite its amazing diversity, part of a larger specific cultural pattern and if we control (by giving specific tools, in specific contexts) the way people escape from their everyday life in creating a virtual self, do we shape their imagination? And thanks to this, what control can we have on them?

My second point comes from the danger in having a virtual identity. Because if one starts to exist more in the virtual world, one can be led to self-destruction reducing his actual life to its minimum. Here also, we could think about it as another threat to people’s freedom as they could be too busy leading their virtual life to care about their real one (second life and world of warcraft are good examples).

Of course my reflexion is uncomplete and still quite vague but I would be interested to debate about these issues, so tell me what you think!


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