(Warning: Fourth Wall Breach Ahead!)
Most public conversations related to pseudonymous identity in social networks have centered on negative aspects of the issue. For real-namers, it's the fear of being griefed by untraceable miscreants. For the pseudonymous, it's the fear of the damaging consequences of exposure, such as not getting hired for a future job because of a controversial post. But today, I'm going to focus instead on the positive gifts of pseudonymous identity in the light of my own experience over the last three and a half years channeling Botgirl Questi.
Although some people use pseudonymous identity for nefarious purposes, the vast majority of those I've met in virtual worlds and on social networks use it benignly. And many of us use it as a vehicle for creative expression, personal self-actualization and social community:
- I've met people who've felt shy most of their lives, but transformed themselves into confident social butterflies through virtual identity. The previous timidity was often due to physical or social characteristics that made them feel ostracized or self-conscious. Many have found that confidence gained through virtual identity is carried over into physical life.
- Most of the active artists I've met in Second Life had little or no history of public creativity before developing it through virtual identity. It's very common for people who haven't worked on an art project since grade school to end up producing substantial works and even exhibiting in art shows. I'm one of them.
- The skills I've developed in the 900 blog posts, 100+ videos, dozens of comics and 10,000 social network posts under the Botgirl identity are applied every day in my wallet name work. Although I've been a creative type my whole life, channeling Botgirl has revolutionized the depth, breadth (and speed) of my work. My Muse has given me both an unquenchable thirst to create and an ever-flowing fountain of inspiration to satisfy it.
I realize that some of you have no personal interest in developing a distinct virtual identity. And there are those who believe that there’s something inherently suspicious about anyone who would choose to do so. But as someone who’s sat on both sides of the fence, I invite you to suspend your disbelief and try it for yourself. Register another identity and start participating in a social network from that new point of view. You might be surprised by the insights it will give you.
This concludes the series on social networks and identity. You can find the others here: 1, 2, 3, 4.