Sunday, April 29, 2007

Multiple personalities on- and offline

While browsing the TV-program I stumbled over a psychologist claiming that humans do not have the capacity handling multiple personalities (and I don't mean them as a disorder, but having various personalities to work with) online. From my experience in the 'real world' I have to counteract him: We do not only have the capacity, we do it regularly.

Having multiple personalities online simply means having different identities online (such as I have Cay Reet in this blog [and various forums] and Mara in some other forums). Someone who plays "Second Life" or "World of Warcraft" or other online-games like those has even more of an (or two or three or sixty) additional online personality(ies). They aren't just a name in the internet, they have a body (even though it's digital and does not necessarily look like a human being / and by the way: even I am more than a name, I have some avatars in picture form, like the one on the right of my blog), they have a history (of defeating this monster or meeting that person or building those houses over there or whatever), they have relationships and so on.

Now a lot of people who do not lead an 'online life' think that you can only lead one life all over, so if you're a person online, you can't be complete offline. That's quite a strange idea, considering how many personalities (I'd rather call them 'personae' - due to Uriel's masks in "Angel Sanctuary" [gosh, I just love that Angel of Death]) all of us have 'offline' anyway.

Not true? We'll see about that.

But first, let's return to the digital world online.

What is so strange about having one or more identity online? It's only natural for us to 'protect' that part of us we can't change - the identity we have in the 'real world' where we can 'really' get hurt. (Well, of course you can change your 'real' identity, but that's difficult and not always possible.) On the internet (just as while you're on the phone talking to someone who doesn't know you - sex hotlines are a good example for that) you are what you make of you. If I create an online personae, I can be everything I want: man or woman (or a small, fluffy creature from Alpha Centauri [a digital cookie to whoever knows where I took that from]), young or old, attractive or ugly, experienced in all forms of sex or a virgin and so on... As I've already pointed out, I tend towards male characters while I play role-playing games ... but online I'm usually female. There's no way this will keep me from being who I am in everyday encounters, it only gives me the chance to be somebody else from time to time online.

And now to our personae in 'real life'. Do you really think that in your life you're almost 100% you? Then think again.

During your work hours you will - normally - suppress your aggressions, due to the fact that they might get you fired, especially if you're angry about your boss. So you're not showing all aspects of yourself.

During a date with your boyfriend/girlfriend you'll normally suppress your desire to stare after good-looking boys/girls who are not your relationship. Otherwise you'll soon be free to stare after them all you want, because you won't have a relationship then.

There are loads of situations in your life where you won't show all of your aspects of personality. In fact, I can't think of a situation in which anybody would show all aspects of his/her personality.

We all learn from early childhood that there's the time and place to show certain aspects of ourselves. So we form those personae I've written about already and use them whenever necessary (only we don't need a mask for it - that much for my "Angel Sanctuary"-reference).

And if we're able to suppress various aspects of ourselves in the 'real world', thus creating 'multiple personalities', then why should we not be able to hold up various identities on the internet as well without risking our sanity?

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