Personal Identity in Online Communities

Pages: 5 (1743 words) Published: September 5, 2012
Express Yourself
Identity can be defined as a set of personal behavioural characteristics by which an individual exhibits and hence allows the individual to be identified as part of a particular group. Yet as humans, we have the capability to suppress or put forth certain behavioural characteristics which are not necessarily within our usual set of personal behaviour in certain required circumstances such as being polite to an unruly customer due to job requirements. Sometimes we suppress our true self and put forth a fake front so often that we forget who we really are, especially when this ability allows us to be ‘classified’ within groups which we may not truly belong to. Soon, we forget ourselves and live in these groups which we are not all that happy living in. However, with the popularization of Social Networking Sites (SNS), we have been provided with a power to rediscover, portray and express ourselves in any way we desire through means other than the conventional looks, dressing and material possessions. In the article Drag Net (1998) by Sherry Turkle; she examines the boons of not reveling her biological gender while playing in a multiuser domain (MUD) and describes her own experiences, frustrations and confusion that she faces in expressing herself while playing without a definite gender and then later on as a male on MUD. She also discusses further about the psychological effects on a person while playing a different gender by drawing from her own experiences and that of Case’s and Zoe’s as well as drawing a parallel with Shakespeare’s famous play “As You Like It”. She also touches on not only issues such as male playing females and females playing males but also on males pretending to be females playing males and vice versa as well. Similarly in the article by Amy Bruckham (1996) titled Finding One’s Own In Cyberspace; she discuss about the discomfort, confusion and anger one may face on SNS due to reasons such as unacceptable behaviour from others, the presence of exclusivity and anonymous comments as well as the challenges in creating a online community from scratch. She retraces her steps in recounting the difficulties she faced to help people understand certain aspects such as the reason for exclusivity and anonymity in an online community and she emphasizes that it is not hard starting a community online, but hard to nurture and maintain an ideal community as she brings up the example of New York City’s ECHO bulletin board and her own MediaMoo. (Bruckman, 1996, para.12)

In the real world, people make use of a variety of material objects such as branded goods, clothing’s, cars, watches and electronic gadgets to reflect their social status and represent their identity. As seen in the article Finding One’s Own In Cyberspace, it suggests that by looking at the type of cars outside a restaurant and the appearance of the customers, one could identify the type of people who would frequent that restaurant. (Bruckman, 1996, para.4) In addition to material possessions, the type of places one frequents can also define one’s identity. Suppose Restaurant ABC is located at Orchard and there were multiple Ferraris and Mercedes parked outside the restaurant. Furthermore, the people entering are dressed in expensive cocktail gowns and exquisite suits; one would most probably conclude right away that Restaurant ABC is most likely a high class restaurant catered to the wealthy. Hence, if one frequented Restaurant ABC, one would most definitely be classified as wealthy.

Also, in the real world, there are preset expectations on how one should or should not act depending on gender, position or even depending on the type of relationship one has with the other party. In the Drag Net, the preset expectations on gender is shown clearly in Turkle’s claim “playing a male might allow me to feel less out of place”(Turkle, 1998, para.2) with her reasoning behind her statement being; although she would be expected to...

Cited: Bruckman, A. (1996, January). Finding one 's own in cyberspace. Technology Review Magazine, , pp. 48-54.
Turkle, S. (1998, September-October). Drag Net: From Glen to Glenda and Back Again - Is it possible? Utne Reader , pp. 51-55.
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