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Group Discussion

2009 April 6
by Hannah Mueller

Our ultimate question was:  What is the impetus or appeal of acting like “someone else” online?  Why are the four of us kind of uncomfortable with it?

The line of thinking that led to this question started with some of us expressing our discomfort with one of the people in Turkle’s article, who referred to his online avatar/character as “me.”  Roisin said she has a hard time “separating myself from myself”, and I think we all agreed that we strive to present the most accurate picture of ourselves online as we can.  But, maybe this is only because we’ve never entered into the context of an imaginary space like a MUD, instead staying in online spaces that are tied to ‘RL’, like this blog–or that simply don’t expect us to be anyone other than who we ‘are’.  But the question remains, why are some people drawn to those ‘second lives’ and others are not?  It’s a psychological question more than anything.

Briefly, we also talked about the assertiveness vs. bitchiness debate in representations of gender online.  We thought it was interesting that when one gender does something, it can signify completely differently than when another gender does the same thing.  In reference to sexual online relationships, we made the distinction between having netsex as yourself and having it as your character; the former would be “cheating” while the latter would be like porn.  But we also thought that acting out one life online and living another must be confusing at best and destructive at worst.  All emotional connections are “real”, whether online or off.

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