Monday, December 12, 2005

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a...

One of the things that I find most interesting about the Net is the idea of a virtual identity. The Internet releases the physical being and allows the person to become whatever it is he or she wants to be. Most people don't take advantage of this (and some go way beyond the limits, but we don't need to go into that).

One of the most famous lines about this is from the New Yorker. So the physical playing field is leveled. What about the intellectual? This is where your identity shows. It seems one's Net identity is more about the intellectual self, than the physical or emotional self. I like that. Often, the intellectual gets lost or hidden behind all else. Like Spongebob says, "Patrick, your genius is showing." ("Where? Where?")

However, it is the emotional self that I find hard to dismiss.

How often do you send an email or chat and realize that what you've said could have been misconstrued? Sure, I use emoticons as much as the next guy (and maybe even more), but there are nuances in facial expressions and language tones that are simply lost in the written word. I admit I like to play around with words, make subtle jokes, etc. I do it in conversations and often this personality quirk(?) comes out in my emails. The dark side is that you often don't get to see the reaction of the recipient (so you have no idea what meaning was taken). There exists an entire range of emotions hidden and unexpressed.

One of the features I enjoyed when using Tapped In (original version), was the ability to have your "self" say how you felt. For example, your identity could type a command to say:

Laura grins.

In regular IM chat, if you type "grins," it looks something like:

Laura: grins.

I know the colon shouldn't really mean anything but it does. The first allows the recipient to "see" the action. The second has the recipient reading it. I feel that the closer one comes to "seeing" even if only in the mind's eye, the closer one comes to feeling.

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