In the early days of the internet, almost nothing was known about the people behind the content. Back in the Arpanet institutional days, you were nothing more than an email address or a machine ID. Flash forward a few decades and for those of us who have opened our digital identities to the world, there is almost nothing that you can’t find out. I find the entire transformation interesting.
One of the advantages of the earlier era was that you could be anyone you wanted. If you were on a newsgroup dedicated to a particular subject, your “handle” could be an expression of how you feel about that group, or maybe who you’d like to be in real life. You could then turn around and create an entirely different (and even contrary) image on a bulletin board system (BBS) or other outlet.
There is certainly nothing wrong with roleplaying (I did it for years in high school and college) but sometimes it is just too much to keep straight. The other downside has been when it comes to cheating in relationships, lying to unsuspecting innocents, and fraud in general. Does that imply that anyone who creates fictional alter-egos intends to do something fraudulent? No way! It is just a temptation that was out there.
Maybe because it is just too much to remember, I have always been “just me.” Sure, I am [New Media Titan] on the XBox Live profile, but that is an extension of who I am everywhere. Sure, I have adopted a nickname or two in my podcasts “The CDogg,” “The Bandit,” “BigDog” etc.. but my name was always a part.
Fast forward to today and everything in the news is about how there is nowhere to hide. Everything you do, say and view online is being recorded and shared with the NSA, big business and who knows who else.
The upside of all this transparency is that we can actually get to know someone online a bit easier. I can learn who among my online friends is inquisitive, funny, happy, sad, a fan of cats – you name it. Sure, it isn’t a 100% perfect insight into them! but it sure helps.
Take their postings with a grain of salt but enjoy the leverage that tech provides in connecting you to people. We are all spinning together on this big blue marble.