We human beings have certainly evolved into a strange bunch. As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it seems a completely acceptable way for us to communicate with others by assuming pseudonyms and avatars to represent us in this global, very real, but still very virtual world of our own creation.
I, like many others, have adopted an identity online which is not real. A fake name and a fake picture in which others can judge me or form opinions about me, regardless of what I have to say, or think. It could be argued then that the choosing of such masks or identities is something that should be determined with much thought and deliberation. After all, it is a reflection of how we want to be seen by others. However, as I'm sure you'll agree, these decisions are quite often taken very lightly indeed.
My user name comes from an obscure track from an obscure band which I use for a lot of online activity, but my avatar comes from a whim decision made approximately two minutes after I joined this site. For months now I have been known and, I'm sure, associated with the image of a man gasping for air when emerging from a stinking toilet. For those of you who don't know, it is a still from the Danny Boyle
. But why, of all the images I could have chosen, did I choose the image of a Scottish heroin addict rising out from a shitter? Because I like the movie? Then why not something else from the same film?
The reason I'm even thinking about this is because of Screened user Joe
, a major contributor to the site, who recently changed his avatar image. It struck me how one's perception of someone comes from the appearance. Joe suddenly seems like a totally different person, although nothing at all has changed apart from the avatar. On the internet, we are blessed (sometimes cursed) with the veil of anonymity. But it seems like the veil does indeed have a face.
What we choose as our avatar is a choice of how we want to be seen. It's who we are. But it's also who we're not. Am I reading too much into this? Well, if I had a nice pink flower as my avatar would you think of me differently? Would you respond to my comments in a different way? What about a swastika? Or a peace sign? Is he a Nazi or a hippy? Are the thoughts I express eclipsed by the anonymous image I choose to represent my digital identity? Am I really the sort of person who crawls out of toilets? No. It's only a picture. It's not me. But, in a strange way, it IS
me. On this site, at least.
So, should more thought be given to our online identities? Or should this be the dawning age where image and name be secondary to our REAL
identities. That is, what we say and what we think. The mask is changeable on a daily basis, but the thought behind the mask is always us.
For the time being, at least, I'm sticking with the toilet guy. But I'm always open for alternatives.