Living in the “Physical Real”… Or not

Response to Turkle’s Alone Together, Chapters 8-10:

Of all the reading I am doing for my graduate studies, and trust me, that’s a lot of reading, Alone Together is the most interesting and engaging. Turkle uses anecdotes of individuals she interviewed in order to illustrate particular concepts about new media and culture. For me, what makes this book fantastic, and thusly, helpful on my journey to learn new media, is that I can put myself in the shoes of those described in the book. I understand what they are going through and I get why they do what they do.

One particular story stood out to me. In chapter 8, Turkle designates a segment called, “The New State of Self: From Life to Life Mix.”

It is not uncommon for people who spend a lot of time on Second Life and role-playing games to say that their online identities make them feel more like themselves than they do in the physical real. This is play certainly, but it is serious play.

Turkle describes Pete a man who has a wife and children in the “physical real” and another wife in the game Second Life. Yep, you read it correctly… Two. Wives. Pete calls it his “life mix.” The idea that he can have multiple lives, a new one in every internet realm, gives him an opportunity to make his physical real self better because he can construct it from pieces of his other selves. Turkle says,

We have gone from multitasking to multi-lifing.

His story is fascinating and although I think it’s very very wrong, I totally understand. The Internet provides this whole realm where you can be whomever you want. You can experience a completely different set of environments because through the Internet you are someone else. Someone who is not beautiful, can be. Those who lack courage, are emboldened.

Later, Chapter 9, Turkle addresses what she calls, “presentation anxiety.” She talks to high school and college students who antagonize over what information should and should not become part of the online image. Every social media network requires us to create a profile. These profiles need to be constantly updated and for some this is a strenuous exercise. It reminded me of a meme I came across on Facebook a while ago (shown below).

Why are we so concerned with our online "image?" Why do we worry about how it compares to others?

Why are we so concerned with our online “image?” Why do we worry about how it compares to others?

The quote above is a great summation. Online profiles are highlight reels. We only include the most flattering pictures, the most exciting vacations, the most dynamic tidbits of our lives. Every element is hand picked by us in order to present our best selves. For some reason, we don’t take those same factors into account when we view the profiles of others. To us, those people are that interesting naturally. We can’t imagine [insert perfect person you know, love, but secretly envy] taking 50 pictures and only using 1 the way we do. But the truth is that’s exactly what [insert same person from above] does.

To be yourself to great but to be someone else is altoegther greater.

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