A Pop Pscychological Look At Blogger Identities

It took me awhile, because I am both slow witted and busy these days, but I managed to figure out and read up on the latest “controversy” in the Jordanian blogosphere. First of all, that we should even define a fight between two Jordanian bloggers as even a minor controversy in light of all the other things that are so much more important to our blogosphere, is a disgrace, but it will have to do for now. I’m not going to offer links or anything lest I be accused of taking sides and what not, which is something I especially don’t want to do as it would take away from the subject matter. Suffice to say that this controversy, or shall we say fight that has managed to create a pro and anti camp in the Jordanian blogosphere, is what has inspired me to write this very post.

Inspiration has been known to come from lesser things…

Blogger identities is the topic. How reliable is a the identity a blogger creates online and how does it reflect their true identity? In fact, which identity is the real one? Some times I think it’s not only easier to create a false online identity, not only easier to live and maintain that identity, but also easier to actually become that identity. In the same way we begin to believe the lies we tell often enough. In the same way all superheros go through an identity crisis in at least one or two episodes of their overall misadventures; the inability to separate the man from the mask, Bruce Wayne from Batman, Clark Kent from Superman, Peter Parker from Spiderman.

If you spend a lot of time in the social realms of the Internet, you end up investing a lot of time into building that alter-ego. And don’t kid yourself, everyone has it. For some, it’s 180 degrees from who they are in real life, while for others it may barely be one degree on the dial. But whatever the varying degree may be, I firmly believe that no one is their 100% true self online and no one is immune from that aspect of which the Internet has to offer.

Many things get factored into this. The fact that the online world allows us more time to react, to think, to formulate responses, to interact. Yet at the same time everything is exchanged in what we feel is superhuman speed. It’s not really, it’s just that time travels slower on the Net. In reality, a single expression or hand gesture can be more telling in real life than what can be expressed in an entire paragraph. It’s the reason why online fights are more likely to take place, and more difficult to untangle or to resolve.

This is all the more true for bloggers, since they tend to invest a whole lot more time in the social realms of the Net than the average person does who’s just surfing. Blogs become a sanctuary for definition, or rather redefinition of the a person’s identity. They are filled with all the trappings of an identity. They are the Bat Cave, the Fortress of Solitude; they are inhabited with all the elements that tell us what we need to know about a person. From design to content. Mostly the latter, but I say it all for the sake of inclusion.

I’ve used the comic book analogy here twice now and I do so because on some level I believe that this is the most relatable world. Most superhero and villains wear masks and disguises, live different lives in real life, and their secret identities allow them to do either good or bad. Even the superheros themselves all do what they do, just like bloggers, based on their own intentions. Some bloggers blog because they love to write; Batman fights crime because he’s looking for revenge. So on and so forth. Moreover, just like the comics, so much depends on that identity; on creating it, building on it, maintaining it, sustaining it. So much can be gained from it and so much can be lost. It can receive both praise and criticism with ease.

Just like in the comics alter-egos have their advantages and their disadvantages.

For some, it’s a chance to be popular, a chance to be acknowledged in a way that their real life personalities could never afford them.

For others, it’s an escape to live out a side of them they don’t let others see in real life. A side that would involve social excommunication in reality, a side that defies the standards they’ve either set themselves or standards that have been set for them by peers.

For others, its a way to vent and rant; a complete departure from their shy and reserved real selves, but filled with all the things they would’ve said anyway had they a voice that was loud enough to bellow it.

Others still are pretty much the same as they are online.

Let’s not forget that the Internet has a way of bringing so many people together while keeping them apart. We’re uninhibited in the way we act with online people we hardly know because there’s always the likelihood that we will never see them. The distance itself is a drug that can be quite intoxicating. The matter is completely different when it’s face to face communication.

Everyone presents themselves online in a different way. Many do try to keep as true to their real selves as possible, although the temptation to stray is undeniably strong. You can instantly sound funnier, smarter, greater, prettier, better, faster, stronger, when on the Internet than in real life.

But these are all generalizations about online identities.

We talk so much about online identities and anonymous identities that  Blogger identities are so often overlooked.

If someone were to write a psychology thesis on the subject, blogger identities would be a whole big chapter unto itself. Because so much of the fragments we get from other identities online, whether its instant messaging or simple comments left on blogs, a blogger is an author of their own online destiny. How they feel, what they believe, their fears, their aspirations, their character, their religion, their biases, all of this is spewed out on to a platform for all to see and analyze. They are characterized after a few weeks of blogging.

It’s much different when you’re an anonymous commenter leaving your 2 piasters on a blog or chatting with someone individually. You’re simply defined in a much broader context. You willingly put yourself out there under a giant x-ray machine where everything shows up.

So why would we (bloggers) do that to ourselves?

That all goes back to who we are and what our intentions are when starting a blog. Is it fame and fortune? Is it interaction? Is it a form of venting? Is it a hobby? Is it because we love to write? Is it because we want to get to know those who agree or disagree with us? Is it because our mothers never loved us and this is the psychological manifestation of childhood scars? Is it because we’re sick of talking to ourselves?

The reasons are many and they range from the superficial to the substantial. But here’s a note: our intentions, whatever they may be, and our identities as reflected through those intentions, whatever they may be, are entwined. A blogger over a span of time cannot separate the two. And our intention will, without a doubt, eventually make an appearance sooner or later. And when they do, and if they are found out to be superficial or unsubstantial, it usually means the self destruction of both the intentions and the identity simultaneously.

In other words, it’s much easier to save the identity if you’re just a nickname on MSN, but a blogger has a lot more invested and thus a lot more at stake. There is a reputation, there is a degree of credibility, reliability, and there is an identity that is tied to a blog or even a brand. Frankly, if your intentions are idiotic, such as blogging for sake of popularizing oneself, your lifeline is much shorter. You lose credibility, your fan base disappears and your left with an unread blog and a broken identity that is pretty much unfixable. In the social realms of the Internet, blogger vanity is indeed a favorite sin, and it is not one that goes unpunished.

It is the equivalent of a neo-conservative, pastor of a Church, adamantly anti-gay, Republican Presidential candidate ending up on a videotape soliciting sex from a male hooker in the midst of an election.

I don’t think it’s something most bloggers think about but maintaining an identity is very important. So much depends on it.

Which is why I’m often baffled by the degree of fakeness some bloggers present. It really shouldn’t matter what your intentions are or why you even blog in the first place, but if you’re not being yourself then perhaps the question becomes: why are you even blogging at all?

Isn’t being yourself what blogging is all about?

23 thoughts on “A Pop Pscychological Look At Blogger Identities

  1. You must also look at the fact that most people are emotional and if they disagree with you once they “hate” you..Anyway what you said has some truth to it, but the online world is an image of the real world.

    Well Written 🙂

  2. Wooow If I read ur post before I created my blog I would have changed my mind loool

    For me I think Having a virtual space just like the real one; That was the reason why I started blogging.

    it’s like the space where I can say whatever I want whenever I want without bothering anybody, or having no one around me that moment to listen; sure without masks … because it’s like I am talking to my self; so if I lied then I lie to me … and the least thing I care about is people’s opinion about me ! Seriously …. Whether I am popular or others like me or not what do I get?

    I will re-read what I wrote once and it has to be true for Me not for anybody

    Nice piece

  3. I loved reading this article. I really enjoyed it for more than one reason. But I was faced with a little contradiction,
    If no one can be the same person after blogging (since even 1 degree of divergence at a million miles will end up 17 thousand miles away) Then how can one be themselves.

    Many good examples of people who decided to go with an identity, (Mala2e6, 7aki-fadi, …etc) who were very successful in what they presented.

    Sometimes, people need to look at the ideas in abstract of the person promoting them. Are these ideas true? Are they suitable? Are they related to me? Instead of focusing on the tie of the speaker. I’m sure you know what I mean

    Finally, there is no written rule that says fame and glory are disqualifying offenses if you seek them. Many successes for the whole human race were built on nothing more than good old capitalist self indulgent reasons. And you know what? We’re all in their debt.

    Nas, there is a lot that is left unsaid, and better stay like.

    One last thing, don’t you think it would be a little bit hard for people to hide in their blogs and portray a super hero character when their friends, colleagues and family members are reading everything they write? Wouldn’t this be a driving factor for people to actually not diverge from their ego?

    If there is one thing I learned from my online “experience” it would be that many things are not what they appear to be

    Again, thanks for the awesome article

  4. SimSim:

    For me I think Having a virtual space just like the real one; That was the reason why I started blogging.

    one of the best reasons I’ve heard so far

    Qwaider:

    If no one can be the same person after blogging (since even 1 degree of divergence at a million miles will end up 17 thousand miles away) Then how can one be themselves.

    Many good examples of people who decided to go with an identity, (Mala2e6, 7aki-fadi, …etc) who were very successful in what they presented.

    Thanks for the comment. Two things to note here. First, the math is odd. I believe that no one is 100% themselves on the Net, simply because of what it has to offer. But this comes back to intentions. Do you intend to be as different as possible? Then you’ll end up at the 180 degree mark. The 1 to 5 degrees are like an insignificant and forgivable margin of error. The intentions of these people are to stay as true to their true selves as possible. Talk about the issues they personally want to talk about. Post just anything they want because it’s their space and they wouldn’t act any different in public.

    Second, sadly I don’t read Mala2e6 too often but I do read 7aki’s blog. I think, judging by their writing, you might be confusing what I mean by ‘identity’. These are bloggers who have created aliases because they don’t want to share their name with people. But yet the content is a reflection of an actual person and actual events. There’s no fakeness to it (from what I’ve read).

    Sometimes, people need to look at the ideas in abstract of the person promoting them. Are these ideas true? Are they suitable? Are they related to me? Instead of focusing on the tie of the speaker. I’m sure you know what I mean

    That’s true but a blog is not a classroom-teacher relationship. There is a relationship, a connection, between reader and blogger. I read certain blogs not because the blogger has just spit out some random, perhaps even controversial topic, just for the sake of (fill in the blank) but rather because I have an interest in what that blogger has to say.

    For example.

    I can read about issues on Marc’s blog (abuaardvark) on a bunch of news sites, but the reason I read his blog is because I want to read what HE has to say about it. I, as a reader, have a connection with that blogger. In the same way I visit Roba’s blog because I expect to see something lighthearted, or an issue in a whole other light, something quirky, something fun. Because these are attributes of her own self reflected in blog form. The same can be said with Lina.

    If you were in a room with these bloggers and you didn’t know their blogs, you could, within a few minutes of speaking with them, make the connection between blog and blogger.

    That’s what I’m talking about.

    One last thing, don’t you think it would be a little bit hard for people to hide in their blogs and portray a super hero character when their friends, colleagues and family members are reading everything they write? Wouldn’t this be a driving factor for people to actually not diverge from their ego?

    I’ve found that those most fooled by a person’s ‘other’ identity are those closest to him. Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Friends and family know the person more than the blogger or the alter-ego. The former is so dominant that anything the latter does is often swallowed up.

  5. I just started a blog out of boredom, which I doubt I will maintain once school starts, hehehe 😀
    I love reading blogs, but I still can’t get myself write regularly.. I don’t know how some bloggers have been able to go on for a year or two.
    Back to the subject of this article, I agree that a blogger should try hard to stick to his/her real life identity– especially if the blogger is the type that writes about personal matters.

  6. Interesting entry. I’m slightly a different person when I blog. I started watching out for profanity which I use every other second because readers started complaining, and I sometimes try to be politically correct when I write because people got offended a few times, although in real life I’m anything but politically correct (I’m so vulgar to the extreme).

    It’s Ok for people not to be themselves when they blog. We read blogs sometimes because we enjoy going to a different world other than the real one, and a sense of perfect people (bloggers) who are very honest and kind and who are peace-loving and trying to save the world gives some comfort.

  7. Very well said and thought provoking. When I started blogging, I asked a couple of my off-line friends (plus hubby) to read it and keep me accountable to be my true self. They’ve all caught me veering at some point, as I want to be who I am on and off-line. This is a good warning.

  8. Isn’t being yourself what blogging is all about?

    No, it is not! I don’t care if any of the bloggers I read for them are being themselves online. What matters to me is the content they right. If, as you said, they are being more funny for instance online, then that is good. No one can reflect his complete real self. Maybe there is no a complete real self as even on my daily life I find myself acting differently with different people. I sure have an identity, a certain characteristics that distinguish me from other people, but it might not be clear to all, some would see part of those characteristics, others would see a different part.

    Online, I discovered a new way of communication. Very different than my daily chat with different people. Something like documenting my inner thoughts and share them with others. It is not easy to find time and people to talk to them with such sincerety without an interruption to the sequence of your thoughts. I enjoy the exchange of ideas and love the exchange of feelings between people online.

    I guess that identity comes by default. Each one of us is different than the other. There is no need to work on that. It just shows itself in everything on your blog and the way you communicate yourself. If some people build a fake identity, then it is their matter. Readers would decide what is good to read. Sometimes a liar can be more interesting than a complete honest person.

    The most enjoyable part of our blogsphere is its diversity. Let each one of us express himself in the way he finds more suitable.

  9. it never ceases to amaze me how seriously some people take the virtual world .. your talk about a fight in the blogger world and pro and anti camps reminds me of all the fights ive witnessed at mahjoob lol .. really i am amazed by how intense some of those things get considering that the whole thing is taking place on a monitor!!

    regarding the why do people blog q – is it an escape or a chance to be someone else or a place to vent or or or ..
    personally .. i see my blog as my own personal newspaper if you will .. i can write my own column or op-ed piece if i wish, or just share some news from around the world, maybe some photos .. and i hope that people find it interesting enough to want to continue reading it .. it’s just my little contribution to the online community 😛

  10. one question, whats the connection here to the issue ?
    whether the mask that they wear is “fake” or not in your eyes it is still pretty much part of them and didn’t come from a void so it is regardless of your observation part of their true identity.
    why is that really relevant, why do we have to get along with each other like KG play ground kids ? if i don’t like something i either observe from the distance or I erase their existence from my world no need for being immature and childish about it.

    for this to be an issue in and by itself is more of an issue that issue itself (hows that for a convoluted statement)

  11. so you found out about me have you? well i might as well fess up…
    ladies and gents, my real name is zorg from the planter zorpina. i have super witty statements and sharp come backs.
    not really
    being one’s self is easier when it comes to blogging and the online world. however, this has become somewhat of an issue as the internet world and the real world are now very slightly separated and are merging into one giant organism.
    but i like it, bit by bit people will adopt their online character and it shall become their off line character. which will eventually result in more tolerance towards differences and cultural beliefs. but at the same time, it exposes people to all sorts of media. which can corrupt our identity as arabs, muslims, christians, jews, or whatever that identity is.
    wait, maybe corruption is not the right word…whatever it is, people will have to get more educated to cope with this rapid change in our community.
    excellent post nas, keep up the good stuff.

  12. I think the problem of having a different identity online stems from the fact that the blogger is writing for his audience, similar to a journalist who writes for a living and takes assignments from his editor in chief to write about topics he might not quite believe in or support. For some people here, blogging is a daily job.

  13. That last analogy was superb 😀

    You know I’ve developed aphobia for meeting bloggers or anyone I know online in person! That should say something, because when I first started mingling in the cyber world I hadn’t expected someone could be so different from reality,I don’t mean those who are shy or stuff, I mean those who fake a totally different personality on purpose…

  14. i have to admit i agree with mo a lot on this one, zakartouni bi mahjoob, inno why do ppl take virtual communities so seriously? its just for fun, and speaking our minds off. inno why do we love to over analyze ppl’s characters and their vanity and intentions (human nature im presuming), write whatever u wish and be whoever u r, its ur space!

    why do blogs have to be personal in the first place, they can simply exclude all daily details of our lives, and our names and our whereabouts and job descriptions, it can just be a place for our intellectual input.. and/or artistic interests, and/or sarcasm on social issues. it doesnt have to revolve around us.

    and why do ppl meet bloggers anyway! bastaghreb sara7a, what happens in vegas stays in vegas, or so it shud. u deal with ppl online, why do u have to drag em out to ur real world? i think curiousity shud have been one of the deadly sins!

  15. “Isn’t being yourself what blogging is all about?”
    Is it really? i used to think that it’s easier for someone to be themselves online and to voice their ideas and thoughts freely..so i thought people online are “real”, but time and time again i’ve been proven wrong, why do we assume that people will choose to be their true selves? if i don’t like myself i wouldn’t want to be myself…and another variable is myself…it changes..from being at work to being with family to being online…people have blogging personalities.
    Being whoever you want to be is what blogging is all about…people can call you a fake lying hypocrite ..but so what? they don’t know you.

    Tangent…I used to think that with so many Jordanian preaching intellectualls on the web that our country is heading for a big change in the direction of corrections and improvement…but it’s all talk..very few people actually live their words.

  16. The fact that the online world allows us more time to react, to think, to formulate responses, to interact.

    Not many people stop to think about this and appreciate how it relates to the way we interact with each other. It was nice to see it mentioned in the article.

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