Last night I was at the Second Life building site of two friends and one wanted to show me a subterranean cave he just built. I stayed where i was and just used the camera key on my 3D Connexion joy stick to check it out without moving. I could have done this using ALT plus my mouse or arrow keys too.
He was shocked that I could do this and was a bit offended by it. This led to a great conversation about online identity and specifically identity in virtual worlds.
Part of the appeal of virtual worlds is that you can create any representative of yourself that you wish. Arguably, you can in RL too — but it’s much faster and cheaper in SL to significantly alter your height, weight, gender and identity.
My friend’s main beef was that he is experimenting with different identities, wants to role play and have a bit of fun — and do it away from prying eyes.
We joked with each other that it isn’t the prying eyes of strangers that can pose problems to exploring virtual worlds and identities but those of our friends, family and colleagues/employers present and future that pose the most risk should we want to shake things up.
I have two main avatars in Second Life – but as I use SL professionally, I am very aware that people in my professional life know my avatar’s name. Unfortunately, enough know my secondary avatar as well.
Neither I nor my friends necessarily want to lead a dodgy second (or third or fourth life) — but to really experiment with a new identity, it has to stand on its own with no associations with the past.
Second Life does allow for multiple identities – so people who want to use it for work might consider having one avatar for professional use and one for private use.
I have two blogs — but both are professional and I identify myself. I do know of some guerilla bloggers who remain anonymous for a variety of reasons. For some — I wonder if it’s their alternate self being let loose, the flip side of the coin seeing the light of day. Is the funny, loud-mouthed cynic a sweet, mild mannered artist by day? Hmmm. I do know some quiet, thoughtful types who claim to be WoW addicts — so it’s not exactly an earthshattering pensivity I’m experiencing here, is it?
So are we going to have to hide behind alternate identities if we ever really want to be our true selves online? And can we ever be? Or are our online lives like some reality show that could be stitched together with tags and fed through a feed stitcher?