Lalo Telling posted this weekend about the negative impact of meeting avatar friends in their human flesh. He wrote:
The difference, and the point of this post, is that meetups of virtual world avatars come freighted with preconceptions -- illusions, if you will -- regarding appearance, reinforced in most cases by the extension of avatarian identity into social networks, complete with profile photos to match . . . The illusion would be shattered upon meeting them face-to-organic-face... or by photographs with names assigned. It's an illusion I'd rather keep.I understand Lalo's reluctance to break the magic circle of virtual identity. There have been people I've known for a couple years through avatar form who later disclosed their human identity including links to pictures. In a few cases, the dual awareness created enough cognitive dissonance to create psychological discomfort. It was like what a kid might feel after he saw Minnie Mouse pulling her head off at a theme park. But I got over it eventually and gained new equilibrium.
The other side of the coin is what it feels like to give up your own pseudonymity. Identity within the virtual world community (and by extension the social network) is socially constructed. No matter how strong your own sense of identity may be, to maintain it, you need other people to suspend disbelief and play along. So when I eventually decided to disclose human identity after a year of very active and public pseudonymous life, I realized the viability of my virtual persona was at risk. Although a few people let it be known that I ruined it for everyone, I'm happy to report that two and a half years later Botgirl is still alive and doing pretty well. I'll write more later this week about the challenges of maintaining a viable post-pseudonymous virtual identity.
I have a feeling this subject is going to be hot again for a while. Yesterday, Whiskey Day wrote an interesting post on the topic and I look forward to other avatar writers adding perspectives on their own blogs.