After reading these articles, I find myself no longer questioning the definitions that coincide with the growth of interpersonal technologies; instead I draw parallels between societal and self-growth. I ask myself: is it the technologies that are shaping individuals, or the individuals forcing technological change? It seems as though the more realistic our mediated communication becomes, the better we are able to identify with ourselves.
Originally, the masses relied on face-to-face communication to meet all basic human needs. Now, with new forms of interpersonal communication media, people are once again questioning the supposed shallowness of communication as well as finding opportunity for stronger, more diverse connections. Over the past four decades, we have seen tremendous growth in the Virtual World industries. What started as text only environments have evolved to include graphics, games, community, and persistence. With each step, these Virtual Worlds have become more and more relevant as they overlap into reality. Their evolution is also very much the same as societal evolution. We started as individuals roaming a vast unknown world, then we learned collaboration was the key to survival, finally we were able to leverage our collective knowledge to continue as a species. If we evolve online the same way we do in person, is it possible to say that technology is changing us as individuals?
The most eye-opening facet of this evolution is its undeniable similarities to real life. It has gone so far as to duplicate itself digitally. Our fantasy worlds, which were once filled with dragons and castles, are now filled with buildings and stores in second life. It is no longer fantasy to play a character from a different world, but instead access the ability to be yourself in a virtual adaptation of current society. People create avatars with their ideal physical selves and then continue to be their inner self. This is a luxury not available to those who are shackled by the boundaries set forth in reality. There are no restrictions, laws, or rules in second life, but instead of creating an online population of unrealistic participants, it has created what may be considered the purest form of self.
Many may argue that because of the high volume of contradiction between real and virtual selves that there is no truth in virtual reality, but I would strongly disagree. Even basic psychology will tell you that there are three selves in every person all with conflicting ideologies: the ego, the superego, and the ID. Is it possible that virtual reality allows for us to unleash ourselves to the fullest extent? In reality there are widely accepted rules on how to act that contrast with our personal needs and wants, but because this is the realm in which we exist, we must follow its rules. But in the virtual realm we are the creators of our present and future. In truth I believe that a person is nothing more than the person they want to be, but not everyone’s reality can fulfill that innate need to be free from within.