From URL to IRL: Internet & Cyberspace, Anonymity, Identity, and True-Self

11:55 AM

Yesterday, my husband and I met up with some of our friends that we first knew from a platform called LINE, an instant messaging app on smartphones.


From our meeting, I personally concluded that there's no such thing as, "they're being assholes on the internet, but at least they're good people in real life."

A huge BS.

Marshall McLuhan once made a prophecy—one that soon fundamentally changed how everyone has ever thought about media, technology, and communications ever since—long before the internet even existed.

He predicted that the humanity would all live in one world interconnected by an electronic nervous system—he coined and popularized the term 'global village' before it even happened.

And then came the internet, making the world seemed smaller than ever through computer-mediated communication; penetrating through all time, space, and other boundaries—identity is no exception.

One of the most prominent traits of the internet is that it offered anonimity.

Internet is a place where anonymity is leveraged by many to create a whole new, totally different persona from their real-life identities, given the fact that everything happens in a cyberspace which would later cause social deterritorialization—even deterioration.

But good doesn't come without bad; just like where there's light, there'll always be shadows and darkness looming over.

Internet along with its anonimity, deterritorialization, and all of its identity and self expression-related traits are like a double-edged sword.

They could be used to both protect our privacy & real life identity AND create a pseudo perceived absence of immediate consequence—that'd be impossible to do in real life, but on the internet? It has the ability to make everyone a monster in cyberspace.

A study conducted by Bargh, McKenna, and Fitzsimons titled 'Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the Internet' found that people are indeed able to express their true-self qualities better to others on the internet.

Social penetration theory developed by Irwin Altman and Dallas Taylor could also be used to explain that prevalent of a phenomenon.

The lack of non-verbal symbols on the internet related to identity such as real name, sex, gender, age, or social status—that stemmed from anonymity as well—makes it possible.

So honestly, if someone seems okay-ish (hella polite and polished, even) in real life, but is an insufferable asshole on the internet?

Chances are, they indeed are insufferable asshole—they just haven't shown their true colors to you yet.

In such cases, you only have two options.

Protip #1: speak up.
Let them know they're an asshole, give them constructive criticisms so they could be a better person. Show them that you care about them.

Protip #2: snip snip.
Cut them off.

If you don't do either of those two, you're just as bad as them—you're an enabler, you let them off the hook with their bad habit.

Because evidently, the internet and the cyberspace —with all of its anonymity, deterritorialization, pseudo perceived absence of immediate consequence, and lack of non-verbal symbols—lets us show our true colors.

Yet, these people that my husband & I just met… they are indeed genuine. There's no discrepancy between their persona on the internet and their real identity in real life—and I like it that way.

Their corporeal body and their virtual body are both authentic and in synchronous harmony—which is such a rare trait in this age of information.

Thanks for having us.
It was a blast & worth the flight tickets.

-

References:

• Bargh, John A., Katelyn Y. A. McKenna, dan Grainne M. Fitzsimons. 2002. "Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the Internet." Journal of Social Issues 58(1): 33-48.

• Littlejohn, Stephen W. dan Karen A. Foss. 2009 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. California: SAGE.

• McLuhan, Marshall dan Lewis H. Lapham. (editor). 1994. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Massachusetts: MIT press.

• Narwoko, J. Dwi dan Bagong Suyanto. 2004. Sosiologi: Teks Pengantar dan Terapan. Jakarta: Kencana.

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