The topic this week in di202 (ably led by Lindsay) was about deception online, particularly with how it relates to digital identity and the formation of relationships online.
Here’s what I find fascinating about this topic: I have a sense that our formation of relationships online is fundamentally different than our formation of relationships IRL because of the vast differences between those two contexts. Okay, after re-reading that, I realize it doesn’t sound like a very bold statement. Let’s see if I can dig deeper. . .
I’ve always thought of the Web as being a performative [1. This is not actually a word — but it should be]space, by virtue of it being public and valuing public(ation) as a means of sharing and creating identity and self. I’ve written before about what I call the Imperative of Audience — how by providing us with the sense that our ideas and creations can be witnessed by others, the Web pushes us into a mode of performance (and sharing). Once we’re in this mode, I believe it’s human nature to want to explore the boundaries of this new stage. As a result, you see people experimenting with the presentation of them self in really interesting ways. I think it’s why there is a fascination with Web- and internet-based tools/spaces that give us the opportunity to consider the presentation of our self — virtual worlds (even if you hate them, you know you find them fascinating), use of avatars, sites like Facebook that channel us into answering a series of common questions as a way of painting a picture of who we are.
In meatspace, we rarely build our identity in such overt ways. Instead, who we are is gradually (and gently, even unconsciously) formed through minute experiences and interaction.
And because the Web is so inherently performative, it’s not uncommon for us to build identities for ourselves that are different from who we “really” are. We misrepresent ourselves not necessarily because we are trying to be deceptive but because we are sprung from the physical restrictions and realities that limit us in face-to-face interactions. In many ways, I think this is freeing. I, for one, am a whole lot better at maintaining and nurturing some friendships online than I am in my face-to-face life. I think those friendships are just as meaningful and important — what allows me to do this is the tacit understanding online that what we are doing is a performance, and so we are allowed to become something that might be different than who we’re perceived to be offline.
So, that’s what I find fascinating when I think about lying and deception online. What about you?