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?