When it comes to any type of interaction, whether it be in person or online, appearance is one of the most important elements.  An individuals appearance determines how he or she interacts with one another, and if appearance is taken out of the equation, it is much more difficult for interaction to occur.  Each person has their own “personal identity” when it comes to appearance, and this helps shape not only how they interact, but who they interact with.

A relevant example of the difference between online interactions and personal interactions is online gaming.  According to Goffman, “the expressiveness of the individual appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives, and the expression that he gives off.”  In the online gaming world, individuals are not exposed to people’s different expressions.  Online gamers are unable to see how the person they are interacting with is expressing themselves.  They can only see their online gamer personality, whether that be an avatar or another gaming character.

Some people see this lack of personal interaction as a positive.  They are able to interact with people on a whole new level, as opposed to having to deal with individuals one on one.  This is where technology has come into play.  Technology has allowed people to interact without being face to face.  On the online gaming world however, some people also see this as a negative.  This anonymity is one of the main reasons that cyberbullying exists.  People know that they are not interacting with people in person, they therefore know that they can away with whatever they say.

Another aspect of the readings this week deal with how individuals represent themselves in online environments.  A persons appearance in an online environment means a lot.  People can choose whether or not they want to have a similar appearance as their physical one, or have a completely new representation of themselves.  For example, in second life, I chose to have an avatar that accurately represented me physically.  When I went to our online classroom however, I saw a few people with avatars that did not represent them at all physically.  This difference in appearance online can help determine whether or not an individual will interact with another individual.  Appearance in all worlds matters, as it shapes how certain individuals interact with others.  Without this, it would be extremely difficult for people to know who they would want to interact with.

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