Readings this week explore the “hybrid” we all have: we exist simultaneously, in some form, online and off. With these readings, you can consider how online identities moderate, alter, or reflect offline perceptions, and how we may alter one or the other for a specific audience. Are hybrid identities more accurate, or less so? How do things like Facebook profiles offer us a chance not only to show who we want to be, but also to be that person? We can also begin to explore how both identities and relationships online shift when there is the existence or possibility of offline interactions. Does our version of self-representation change when we have, or hope to, meet others in person as well?
I believe that, in terms of developing a long-term relationship with someone (which includes spending time with them physically), hybrid identities are not accurate. Consider a World of Warcraft character who takes role-playing seriously. If I am in a relationship with someone, am I going to spend my time with Jaina Proudmoore: level 78 Tauren shaman? Or will I be spending time with Jane, a Rutgers English major. Do not get me wrong, I do not think there is anything wrong with players in World of Warcraft (or any other role-playing game) that take role-playing seriously. If anything, I think that makes a person more interesting. However, there is a time and a place for everything. If our conversation was about World of Warcraft or we were playing together, then it is perfectly acceptable. But when we are not, I want to experience the person that is not the anonymous, online entity. That being said, if I was seeking a relationship of other people who enjoy role-playing, then creating an alter-identity on WoW, Second Life, Runescape, etc. would be perfectly acceptable. Hybrid identities are accurate in terms of understanding a person’s interests (for example, I would know that Jane enjoys playing WoW), but beyond that I cannot see the value of a hybrid personality. I think that the expectations of what a person is like online v. the reality of what they are like in person is a risk that I would not enjoy taking. I also believe that self-representation does change when we meet people in person. Jane couldn’t possibly role-play as her WoW character at all hours of the day. There has to be some point in which she expresses her identity that is not online. The same could be applied towards MTV’s popular show, “Catfish”. On the show, people travel to meet with the people that they have formed relationships with online. Most of the time, the person turns out to be a completely different person from how they represented themselves online. That is a prime example of self-representation changing significantly when one is confronted with physical contact.
Facebook is interesting in that it is completely self-centered content. That is, every user has complete control over what image they want to send out. Altering profile pictures, mandating what you wear in your profile picture (the first thing most people notice about someone else’s page), and what you make your cover photo can say a lot about you. Although the profile is usually self-centered, from personal experience, it seems that people use the cover photo to put a picture of an inspiring quote, a scenic location, their friends, or a pop-culture reference. This customization and blend of allowing users to both express who they are in their profile picture and what their interests are in their cover photo is highly effective. Additionally, Facebook allows one to post music, pictures, an “About Me” description, and other features that allow one to either express their personal individuality or create a different identity all together.