I have an irrational fear of social networking sites, games and virtual worlds. When Boellstorff introduced Second Life in Coming of Age in Second Life, I was intrigued by the idea that a virtual world could be helpful to a person’s self esteem in terms of their virtual self as well as their real self. Boellstorff states that “some Second Life residents spoke of their virtual-world self as ‘closer to’ their ‘real’ self than their actual-world self” (122). For a person to have the freedom to express their selves through different medium is important.
Another aspect of SL that intrigued me was the ability to create a space to share ideas on a different platform. Being able to create a virtual space, like a performance stage, and have real conversations about important aspects of life that effect everyone were things I had never thought of. Presentations are regularly being taped and broadcasted. However, SL added a different dimension by allowing for interactions between participants in our expanding world. I do not mean that the world itself is actually expanding but our perception of the world is. Our perception is only as big as what we are being exposed to. Without the Internet, it is easy to forget about the fact that there are other individuals creating new ideas everyday.
Though this is all appealing to me, in SL people can present themselves however they want to. Boellstorff talks about how age and status in SL are different than in real life. Status is determined by how long a resident has actively been participating. The difference in status and age is what causes me to have this irrational fear. People present themselves differently to better represent themselves or to enhance their experience. In a way, the person is trying to deceive others. While I don’t believe they intend to be hurtful, I am fearful of the times that people are trying to be hurtful, by for example trolling others.
At the beginning of this post, I presented Boellstorff’s statement about people representing their real selves and virtual selves as different identities. However, I think that since both identities come from the same person that together they therefore make up a single individual. A person may present themselves differently to different people to create the best relationships. And as long as they are true to themselves, a person can have different personalities depending on whom they are interacting with. SL is simply a different platform to emphasize a different aspect of a person’s personality. Though this is what I truly believe, I cannot move beyond the fact that I am scared to interact with people online that I have not met in real life. This fear is not something I can easily ignore. That is because I judge a person heavily on a how a person moves and their body language. In the virtual world body movement is quite different than it is in real life.