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The Internet has changed the way we communicate. The difference between communication online and communication in “real life” is that when you are online, people cannot see you, and therefore have no idea who you actually are. So, people often feel a greater sense of freedom and anonymity, which allows them to reveal either who they truly are, or who they want to be. People often reveal their personalities differently online than in real life. The personalities formed in this free environment play an important role online. In “Psychology of Weblogs,” Grohol states that people use blogs because they enjoy hearing about other people living their lives; they especially enjoy strong or unique personalities. Grohol stated, “what’s the purposes of the thousands of small, individually-run sites? One word - personality” (Grohol).
Communication over the Internet is based on trust. When you hold a conversation with someone online, the person on the other end of the conversation really has no idea if you are who you say you are, and you also have no way of knowing if they are who they say they are. This situation of questionable identity can occur even when you are talking with friends. I am sure many of us have played this game by chatting on someone else’s instant messenger, all the while letting the other person assume we were someone else. The same thing can happen in chat rooms or even on blogs.
Bloggers are free to recreate their personality in the virtual community. This situation gives people the perfect opportunity to change the way they portray themselves to others. It is their chance to be someone else. In “The Good, the Bad, and the Internet,” Globus supports the idea that alternative personalities are used online by stating, “In cyberspace, looks don’t count. You can also choose to share only the things about yourself that you consider flattering. You can also adopt new behaviors or even a whole new identity.” (Globus) McLaren continues by stating, “You can’t ever really know if they are who they say they are.” (Globus) After all, 24 percent of teenagers who were questioned about using different Internet communication tools admitted to pretending to be someone else while online (Globus).
After all, if you met someone online, would you really want to tell them about your lesser characteristics?
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"Revealing One’s Personality Online." 123HelpMe.com. 27 Jan 2020
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These issues are especially important when people want to turn their virtual relationship into a real, physical relationship. Someone who seemed nice and clean-cut online could turn out to be a murderer or a rapist when you go to meet them in real life. You never really know. I would be completely disappointed if I had formed a relationship online and spent much of my time on the computer just to find out later that the person I formed a relationship with was nothing like the way they portrayed themselves online.
Fake identities are used in virtual communities. Some of the reasons why people use different identities are like the fact that “looks don’t count,” (Globus), or simply the fact that you can be someone else without anyone ever knowing. When you are in the “real” world, people see you, they think they know you, and you have a history of carrying a certain personality. Often times, this acquired personality is difficult to get rid of, even if you do not think it is who you really are. Online, however, you have the opportunity to portray yourself in a completely different way, whether you pick up someone else’s personality, a made-up one, or reveal a part of you that you feel you cannot reveal in your everyday life (Globus). Aitkenhead says that the internet gives people an opportunity to be a part of something or be someone they wouldn’t normally be. “This is the Access All Areas scenario of your fantasies-you are driving along a superhighway, and you are welcome at every turn” (Aitkenhead).
However, even more importantly than the fact that some people may make up new personalities online is the theory that some people may actually reveal a truer sense of themselves. This idea is supported in the article, “The Good, the Bad, and the Internet,” when Globus states “many teens feel they can be themselves more when they’re on-line than face to face. That’s especially true for teens who are shy or nervous in social situations” (Globus). Nancy McLaren states, “Getting to know someone by words and ideas lets you feel closer than you would if you had just met them at a party. It’s easier to be open and honest.” In certain social situations, people feel they need to act a certain way or portray themselves in a way that is not their true self.
Anthropologists would use the term impression management to describe this phenomenon. People say what they need to say and look how they need to look to fit into social norms. On the internet, people can escape the burden of trying to look good. After all, no one knows who you are. They do not care what you say or how you act. This gives us the perfect chance to let out our true personalities. We can be who we’ve always wanted to be and thought we were, but were not allowed to show. There are people who live their whole life in the shadow of other people’s opinions without being able to stand up for themselves and share the way they really think.
In the article entitled “Session with the Cybershrink: An Interview with Sherry Turkle,” Herb Brody states, “So cyberspace is kind of a fun house mirror of our society - essentially reflecting what goes on off-line, but with some exaggeration.” (Brody 380) In other words, people often times are drawn to the virtual community because it allows them to be who they want to be, rather than who they think they are. They are allowed to let loose inner thoughts and desires. But, with all of the creative disguises, a part of the creator will usually show through. An example of this can be seen in the blog I spent time observing, entitled, “Glorious Noise,” at www.gloriousnoise.com. The sight was based on several men, and their writings about rock and roll music and thoughts of the subject. It was set up almost as a sort of online magazine, where the writings were almost in the form of articles. From reading the blog, one would have no idea whether the “articles” were credible or not, as with many online sources. Maybe these men were just a few college guys sitting in their room with nothing better to do than write about music. So, although not everything they say may be true, we can learn a few things about the writers by reading it. For instance, their commitment to writing about rock and roll shows that they must have a true love for music. This makes perfect sense. You can never really know if people you talk to are “real” or trying to be someone they are not. The men on the “Glorious Noise” website may have been bored kids who just want to write about music, or they may have been professional writers with a true connection in the music world. When communicating online, people may “change” their personality in order to try to overcome their weaknesses or to be someone else, but if you read into what they are saying you could usually figure out something about who they really are.
So, if people do not always tell the truth online, as many have admitted doing, where do they get their “personality.” Some people screw around and use fake personalities, but the idea that makes the most sense is the theory that people reveal their truest identity online. I have often felt as if I needed to act a certain way in front of different people in order to be accepted into certain social situations. My opinions have been altered by others’ thoughts, and from time to time I may say I believe something I really do not believe in simply to fit in. If I kept a blog on the other hand, I would use it as a journal. This would be my place to reveal all of my inner thoughts and feelings without having to worry about how I sound. Bloggers often times use different names on their sites, again making it a “private” space, even though others can read it whenever they want to. A situation like this gives people the opportunity to let everything out. Bloggers do not have to edit their thoughts, or even watch their mouth; they are allowed to let their ideas flow uninterrupted.
Your personality is who you are. I do not believe that a personality is something you can simply change or modify as you see fit. For this reason, I believe that the personalities portrayed online may be “exaggerated,” and some aspects of what people reveal about themselves may even be lies. However, for the most part, the identities formed have some truth to them. The personalities people take on have something to do with who they are. Even the fake personalities reveal the inner most desires of the creator, telling us a little of who they are or who they want to be.
Aitkenhead, Decca. September 4, 1998. “Sad, Lonely? Log off and get out!” New Statesman, 22 March 2002, via Infotrac.
Brody, Herb. “Session with the Cybershrink: An Interview with Sherrry Turkle,” The Wired Society. Ed. Carol Lea Clark. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1999. 380-388
Globus, Sheila. February 2002. “The Good, the Bad, and the Internet.” Current Health 2, March 22, 2002, via Infotrac.
Grohol, John M. “Psychology of Weblogs.” PsychCentral: Dr John Grohol’s Mental Health Page. April 2001. 22 March 2002. <http://psychcentral.com/blogs/ >
Smolowe, Jill. “Intimate Strangers,” The Wired Society. Ed. Carol Lea Clark. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1999. 389-392