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What do we do with this word, 'reality'?

leamirella's picture

So, I'm not writing a paper this week. Here's my post!

I asked the question in class this week about what we consider reality to be. I posed this to the Arab revolutionaries, the 'nerdfighers', the Female gamers and the Facebookers. The Arab revolutionaries made the distinction of having started this virtual, online place of discussion and then, meeting up in 'real life'. I do not think that this is particularly clear. When asked about this, I was given an answer along the lines of well, it isn't real because they didn't know each other online. But how do we 'know' each other?

The argument over whether someone really knows you by checking out your Facebook page has been made at so many discussions that I've had about Facebook. Is there a distinction between the physical self and the self that is portrayed online? On one hand, you could argue that whatever you put up on Facebook can be manipulated and present to an audience an image that is entirely different from your 'real' self. However, I feel as though this is a minority of people who have 'online personas'. The majority of us with Facebook accounts are who we are online and who we are in the 'real world'. I take my Facebook account as an example. According to Facebook, I've been a user since 2007. Curious to see what Facebook tells me about my identity, I stalked myself. I read comments made at the age of 15 and compared them to the comments that I make now. I see how different I look now versus three years ago. In my photo albums, I see how my friend groups have changed. What does this tell me? It tells me part of the story of my high school years. It tells me who I was, what I thought about an event/picture/person. It showed me at least part of what my 'real' reality was during the course of those years. I don't really think there is a line that has to be crossed between the virtual and the real worlds.

Of course you cannot discount the countless articles of older men posing as young studs in order to lure in young female prey. Nor can you ignore Sherry Turkle's article in which she writes about the large amount of people posing as the opposite gender online. However, I ask this question. In real life, does the 'real' person remain static in how they present themselves? I thought about it this way. In class and in meetings with professors, I like to think that I give off the impression that I am a good student - I listen in class, I pose questions, I do my homework. At rugby practices, I can get a little rowdier, yelling for the ball and running around in nothing but shorts and a tank top in 30 degree weather. In my dorm room, I mellow out, chatting with my roommate about how much we hate the world. Each of these different personas come together come together to make me, me. My 'real-life personas' are constantly changing - not everyone has the same impression of me. In fact, I remember after the Goodhart performances during hell week, PhreNic came up to me, tapped my rainbow coloured robe-clad shoulder and said "Wow, I didn't know you were wild!". I feel like this applies to the digital world too. On some websites (like say, LinkedIn), you are a professional. On Facebook, you're a little bit more comfortable (although this is arguable) to show people more about your personal life. In some cases, you get to change gender or age or your 'asl'. (Age, sex, location). Technology merely helps you change your identity more easily by providing a mask. In real life, it's a little difficult for an old man to pretend to be an attractive, young, hunk. Your identity, whether it be online or on the web is dynamic; that is, it is constantly changing.

I really feel like we should stop making this distinction between our online identities and the identities we have in 'real-life'. Given that our 'real-life' identities are in a state of flux and change depending on situation, mood and the others around us, I do not think that our online identities can be separated from us as they seem to be now. Rather, they are a part of us. Technology just makes it easier for us to come up with identities we could never have taken on without the internet and computers.




aybala50's picture


I think you make some great points, but with your discussion on a person real-life persona and online persona, I started thinking more about the possibilities. I also have a facebook account and after looking over some things I realize that, yes, I do think that I have changed over the years and facebook, through posts, photos etc. has captured this. I do not think that I am being fake on facebook, or even unreal...however, I am also not completely honest. If I have a bad day, I don't make it my status. I don't post secrets, or in general anything that I would rather not put out there. The interaction between the real-life persona and the online persona I see is that I have more control over the online one. In real-life, maybe it's more difficult to hide emotions, or distract one self from the reality that is, but online, without really lying, you can still have an altered persona...or a half persona...or just one that is incomplete in the way you would like for it to be? 

merlin's picture

Facebook Failure

fake facebook profile: &#160;  &#160; <Fake facebook identity no. 1


                                                                                          Fake facebook identity no.2>fake facebook no 2: &#160;  &#160;  


So, I started doing a project on Facebook by creating fictitious profiles and seeing how I portray these characters correlates with the different interactions I'd get after sending out mass "friend requests". I wanted to do this as a study of the projection of information in the virtual world and how this information would be interpreted by others (ie, playing different gender and identity roles in those profiles). Would I get more male hits for a female profile? more female hits for a male identity?  I soon found this little experiment to be a failure after arriving at the realization that, surprisingly, the creation of false identities online can be extraordinarily conflicting and create a sort of moral dilemma. I just couldn't bring myself to do it! I was lying to the world and to these poor "friends" of mine! I found it to be increasingly uncomfortable to continue on and play these characters I had created.  I found myself at a moral crossroads - is it ethical to create this online persona which doesn't even exist? Amazingly, it was incredibly easy to construct these fake profiles - so easy that it was a bit scary. The whole process reminded me of a movie I had watched a while ago called Catfish. In the movie, a photographer forms a relationship with a young painter named Abby (8 years old) on Facebook. she sends him her paintings and tells him all about her gallery and artwork. This photographer, Nev, then notices Abby's 19 year old sister online and after friending her, she becomes his love interest. Finally Nev decides to meet the family in person and drives halfway across the country to surprise them. In the documentary, It is discovered that all of these people don't even exists and that the creator of their profiles is one strange woman who apparently has psychological problems. I discovered through my attempted project that I would personally find this to be a very difficult feat, psychologically.  It makes me wonder how people feel about creating online personae which differ from their real-life world. Here is one of the profiles I had created (since deactivated) and my weekly post in place of the project.

Although I cant help to think about where this might have led after getting the profiles to interact with one another and create a network of characters that outsiders would be drawn to. I would have gone one to create more male characters, since the two I started out with were both female.  

ps, I think we should watch the movie in this class!


Intersections of the Panel Discussion

Several presentations had a theme which involved spanning several areas of study or several personae. Cyberpunks span the boarder between high-tech and low-life, psychiatrists between social sciences and hard sciences, Facebook users -between the real world and the virtual world, midwives - as being not physicians, but practitioners who often employ novel techniques and council mothers-to-be, female science fiction writers - who often used male names in order to sell their work. I found it striking that so many of these groups contain individuals who employ multiple identities in their careers or lives. It makes me think of there being a correlation with leamirella's post in that we all, to some degree, inhabit different identities which we can switch on or off at any given time in our daily routine. it is kind of a similar concept that groups of people - like psychiatrists for example - can use their intermediate stance in the sciences to their benefit. Because they lie between the social and hard sciences, they have a training in both and can council patients and also prescribe medications as a doctor, depending on the given situation. I think that the panelists above used intermediary identities to their advantage in creating a hybrid identity all their own. 




leamirella's picture

As an afterthought...

It wasn't just the internet and computers that allowed people to take on personas that they never could have taken on in their personal lives. I thought about Richard Dyer's star theory. (Check out this link) It is so easy to create a 'star persona' that is completely detached from a celebrities 'real life'. I don't quite agree with that. The theory makes a boundary between the 'real' and the 'persona' which I feel is totally artificial. Whatever persona a branding or marketing company makes for a celebrity or pop star, it is somehow embedded in the person too. Even if a person just 'acts' out a persona, there is still a part of them that sticks to the 'real'.

I'm also taking a theatre class this semester and there is a part of method acting (Stanislavsky) that talks about 'finding the truth from within'. I think that this applies not just to theatre but to every persona that we embody, whether that be online or outside. Whatever role we decide to play, there will always be something there that is characteristic of who we are as a person. This can be seen (as I found out by stalking myself) through even the simplest thing like the way your format your messages or comments.

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