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Online Identity

September 20, 2007

I’ve been reading a lot of theory on symbolic interactionism, dramaturgy, and ethnomethodology lately for my contemporary theory class, and – as I inevitably do – I’ve been thinking about all this stuff in the context of the internet. If there is no self except that which we create through interaction, then interaction on the internet must also create self. Does it create a purely online internet-self which is different from our off-line self? Do we have multiple selves, or only one self which manifests in different ways based on the situation? If we create self on the internet then online interactions are no less real than offline interactions. Different, to be sure, but no less real.

On that topic, I hate when people characterize online anything as not real. What is real? Outside of highly philosphical discussions the word “real” has no real meaning. Yes, I know what I just did there, don’t worry it was intentional.

This article, A Rape in Cyberspace, is a few years old, but a fascinating look at how online and offline selves intersect and how something “not real” can be felt as completely real. How exactly can something so physical and so violating happen online, when you can just turn off the computer? Well, it’s not so simple.

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