The topics under consideration reminded me of a show I was recently introduced to. The show is called Catfish and runs on MTV. The concept is based on a documentary film of the same name, and explores online relationships. What makes these online relationships curious is that the individuals involved have never met. Subsequently, the amount that their ‘partner’ knows about them in highly controlled, and often manipulated and subjected to half-truths, lies and missing details.
After dismissing the show as reality-trash, I watched an episode. I found myself incredibly intrigued by the individuals involved. Many people seemed to use online communication to compensate for their lack of acceptance or positive reception in the real world. With reasons ranging from appearance to sexual orientation, individuals took to online communication as a way to control and manipulate their image in the eyes of prospective partners. In numerous instances one of the individuals would admit to being addicted to this type of socializing, often humbly admitting to habitual lying. Simply put, people recognized what they were doing (lying etc) as wrong, but valued the attention and acceptance too much to risk honesty. In each of the cases I watched, I felt various degrees of sympathy for at least one of the individuals. These were people who felt unwanted and worthless due to countless stereotypes and pressures upon them from society as a whole. This being said, their feelings led them to the unhealthy practice of habitual lying and self re-imaginating. Rather than learn to love themselves, many of these people cultivated an alternative existence online, not dissimilar to those explored in the Second Life reading. This should inspire criticism of our society and the artificial values we impose on others. In all these cases, online communication allowed a level of insulation and protection that allowed for genuine emotions and (almost always) romantic correspondence that otherwise would not have occurred. However, in satisfying their natural social needs online, individuals withdrew from tradition socializing that would prove more healthy and honest.
In any case, technologies ability to manipulate who we are is a troubling and evidently problematic. While the benefits of such technology are obvious, the potential for identity manipulation and living a lie is deeply concerning.