Mar 31, 2014

The Avatar We Have Is Fascinating Me

My neighbors came around the other day for dinner and I had privilege to talk to their 10 year old daughters interest and what games she plays. She told me that she is playing an online game in which she has created a character for herself. I know about Second Life and how it works but I was curious to hear what a 10 year old girl thinks about it. She told me that they (with her friend) just bought a house and will be renovating. Me being a curious creature, I kept asking her questions about her out of world experience. She went on for a while about it and it was fascinating to see the way she was describing it.

The summary of the conversation was that, she was able to do so many things in the virtual world which she was not capable of doing in real world as a 10 year old.

After that, I’ve been thinking that we all have two selves or an extended self now a days. (Defining SELF is also very complicated so I’ll ponder around that may be later.)

So the thought or theory or whatever you like to call is like this..

Since the beginning of Internet (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Second life and X and Y and Z…).We’ve been able to create another self of ours or extend it. It is like having our own shadow (Avatar), who can behave and act completely different as soon as we go on the internet.

The definition of our online self, which is normally referred to as Avatar is: In computing, an avatar (usually translated from Sanskrit as incarnation) is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. It may take either a three-dimensional form,[1] as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities.

There are few things I observe going on …

We are not confined by social norms, age or gender in the virtual world. The second self is not limited to the social norms. What I mean by that is, On the Internet you can be (almost) say or do what you like. There are no cops or legal system. You are able to swear and give your opinions about a government or leader, which normally you don’t in real world or if you do then there is risk of having legal consequences. You can show your anger and frustration about your neighbors or council or friends, which you might not do in your physical world. It just fascinating what you can do. As I describe earlier a 10 year old can buy and sell house or have relationship. So there is no Age restrictions on the internet. Facebook has age restriction but I see lots of kids younger than the age limit on it.

You might be able to pretend that you are more generous, kind or a philosopher (like I do), extrovert on the internet, while you might be a completely different person in reality.

You are able to meet your emotional needs. When I was in college, was very shy around girls but I had good presence on the internet with girls chatting to me from all around the world. It fascinates me now, that How stupid it was spending hours on chat sessions talking really silly stuff. But Now I can understand that it was fulfilling my emotional needs. Till date there are lots of new sites and ways people interact just to meet their emotional needs, which is hard to fulfil in the real world.

There are lots of people play online games to vent their anger, which is hard to express in reality. You can go to groups or forums where you can seek counselling from experts. In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper asks one of his friends if they would like to play Second Life and go virtual swimming, since he does not like the water in real life.

You can be someone completely different than who you are in the physical world. You can alter your behavior or actions without even being recognized. We read a lot about child predators on the internet who are following innocent kids. There is a big community of hackers who able to hide their real self and do all sorts of things which could harm or benefit humanity.

As +Paulo Coelho said “People are very reluctant to talk about their private lives but then you go to the internet and they're much more open.”

From my perspective, I envisage there are great benefits and harm to this dual self. At the same time I am thrilled and fascinated how this is all going to unfold (or unfolding) for us.

I might ask my Avatar to pay someday :)