Who are you…really?

8 Aug

The Debut Release

One of the most fascinating subjects to me concerning our SLives is how we see ourselves and how that translates into how we expect others to act towards us. By no means is this a new topic of thought for many of us. Nevertheless, I hope to hear from you about your experiences so I can better understand you and relate to you (“you” meaning all SL avatars and the humans behind them) even better.

Do your clothes and the in-world activities you like best accurately display your personality?
How much do you reveal about yourself?
And who, exactly, are “you” when you reveal these things to me in-world? Are you a human answering as a human? Are you the avatar to whom I am speaking? A character?
What’s real? What’s pretend?
If your avatar falls in love, does that mean the human who made the avatar is also in love?
These are the kinds of questions I ache to have answered by as many people as possible.

I have created a poll to get an idea of how we portray “self” as users of Second Life. If you wouldn’t mind taking a minute to answer (and please explain your answer in the comments), I would appreciate it!

Please take the poll here (WordPress.com does not support inline polls, so I hope it works!)

If you’re interested in the subject of identity and “self” in SL, check out these wonderful articles, blogs, and commentaries that inspired this poll:

More Advice for Newbies… by Lem Skall
Immersion vs. Augmentation by Henrik Bennetsen
The Post-Human Perspective of ‘Self’ by Extropia DaSilva (Part I)
What makes you “You”? by Rik & Osiris Pfalz

Pax out,
Thema Felix


11 Responses to “Who are you…really?”

  1. achariya August 8, 2008 at 5:21 am #

    Neat poll, Thema. Thanks!

  2. sgreggan August 8, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    Thema! What a great post, I have often wondered the same thing. When I first started playing SL I was very secretive about my life but now I’m more open to it. I’m shy to begin with so no one gets to know me from the start. My real personality tends to shine through no matter what I do. I have a hard time role playing someone I’m not. It would get exhausting to try to keep up. I’m not so sure it’s possible to keep the two worlds separated myself, but that’s just me. As far as my AV, oh hell no, my AV is hot and stylish. In RL, I’m a dork and have my own style (if you want to call it that). lol

  3. Bettina Tizzy August 8, 2008 at 8:28 am #

    Hi Thema:

    I think the question of avatar identity is important and one I grapple with frequently. I went to take your poll, but didn’t find a question that I could relate to, since my primary account’s avatar can be many things… from a business-like human, to a work of art (Yoa Ogee’s avatars!), to a fantasy of my own, to nothing more than a hanger for some item of clothing that I have become infatuated with.

    Like you, I’m fascinated with the way we relate to our avatars. There is a very popular flickr group called something like “I love my avatar,” and indeed, if you scan through the thousands of incominmg SL-generated photographs that are published on flickr every day, the vast majority are self-portraits of avatars, showcasing their virtual identity. No one can refute that most of us have very tender, protective and loving feelings towards our avatars.

    This gives rise to an interesting genre of extremely NPIRL art, as well. Take a look at Gazira Babeli’s installation at Locusolus, where she takes tremendous liberties with visiting avatars: http://npirl.blogspot.com/2007/12/concept-art-thats-fun-or-intellectual.html. There are others who are exploring this as well.

    And then there a photographs of avatars that are being sold IRL for several hundreds of dollars a piece (see Avatrait).

    Speaking for myself, I oscillate between treating Bettina like a communications tool, to gazing at her fondly. Heh… I guess that is the way I look at my Second Life, too! I suppose that means that Bettina is an extension of my *feelings* about Second Life.

  4. Annette Voight August 8, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    No matter what av i’m in (human, tiny, ruth haha), it’s still *me* (the person behind the screen) shining through 😉 I suck at RP, I just *cannot* do it. I tried it when I was still pretty new to SL, and it just felt ridiculous so I gave that up quick. I used to have in my profile “I’m not here to develop split personalities” lol I still stand by that. I’m pretty open about my RL, I don’t try to seperate it much cause then it makes more sense about why I am the way I am when in SL (i think? lol). I like who I am, even though I am just a boring bum who’s a photoshop & music addict 😀

    Now the (physical?) av is soooo different from who I am in RL, the only thing really in common is gender & the name ‘annette’.. but a lotttt of my personal taste is still reflected through my av; even though i don’t dress up much in rl, doesn’t mean my av can’t ;P. I guess I am *me* in SL (the personality, emotions, etc), and my av is a pixelated projection of my personality & interests, not necessarily a portrayal of who I am in RL. If that even makes sense. lol

    And btw – that pic is hawt.

  5. Thema Felix August 8, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    I’m just loving each one of your responses and thoughts! I had to say “thank you” up front to all who take the time to think this through. 🙂

  6. Belochka August 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    This is the kind of sociological interest I love too. Yes, there is some ball park “physical” resemblance between my flesh self and my “general” SL self, but the personality is all me, the use of language, the thought patterns represented and societal behaviour. It’s not that I couldn’t role play if I wished but it never even occurred to me that I wanted that from my SL experience. That I can use my av self as a paper doll is obviously something that attracts me because in my everyday life I couldn’t create those looks without a *whole* lot of money and a team of stylists and personal shoppers. I went on holiday for a few days recently, and it was a lovely summer’s holiday, a bucolic dream of childhood almost. My first analytical thoughts were how like some moments in SL it had been for me. To see patterns is to be human so keeping an online world and a, for given value of, real world separate in emotions or thoughts is not something I could do.

  7. IsabellaGrace Baroque August 10, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    Fantastic post Thema. And as you said, sure it’s been brought up before, but your questions and responses are still fascinating to me. So… I guess I’ll give you all my story…rrr Bella’s. That’s just it I guess, we are the same person. I remember when I actually decided to buy/earn enough lindens to really mirror myself physically in RL with my SL self. I had the help of a friend to tweak my shape next to pics of me in RL and buy the perfect skin and hair that I’d wear in RL. Well… that got old. My shape is pretty much the same, only slightly softer around the nose and cheeks for Windlight-friendly reasons, but I’ve turned into a skin whore, occasional neko, sometimes blue or purple skin wearing avi. So, appearance-wise, I’d say my basic self is to reflect my RL persona, but I play around creatively for photos or bordem.
    Now, emotionally, that has never changed. I am very very much my RL self down to SLelabacy (as I’ve grown fond of calling it). I’m married in RL and have a son, and have always made it clear that my intentions are not to be romantically involved in SL. I really believe for me, if I treat SL and others like I would in real life, that’s the easiest way to survive and most honest. I’m not knocking those who only treat it as a “game”, but that’s just not for me. I have adjusted my approach to trusting people in world however, with time and experience. Just because I’m SLelabate, doesn’t mean drama doesn’t find me. There are a lot of people in SL that don’t treat it the same way as I do, even if they say they do, and that has ruined some friendships for me… particularly with men for some reason. It’s funny… in RL most of my friends have ALWAYS been guys, but in SL I find I am closer with my girls. It’s definitely different meeting someone in-world then being able to get to know them out of world. People can create a character of who they want you to see, and that can only last so long.
    Wow… I’m long winded! Point is, I’m me no matter where you meet me though I like my SL wardrobe better and wish I could transfer it to my RL closet. Other people, well I’m so happy to have the friends I’ve made and there are a TON of amazing folks in SL that make the few bad-eggs worth the journey. Including one miss Thema Felix whom I balls to death! <<<333

  8. Eloise Warburton August 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm #

    I have to say – you haven’t had a REAL identity crisis until you’ve experienced a virtual one. Back in 2006, when I first joined SL, I’d never experienced this sort of interaction before. After a few months of complete abandonment to the freedoms, options, possibilities available to me in SL, the euphoria sort of cleared a little and I had to take a hard look at myself. Was that avi I created… was that me? Was that ME? And if it was, what sort of moral consequences did I have to face up to?
    … you know, that sort of thing.
    I guess that’s the kind of person I am. And the truths weren’t all that comfortable to face either.
    My avi is not me. But it is my creation, and it is a conduit for my own values, beliefs, and opinions. And here’s the hardest thing to process: I am still responsible for the effects of my avi’s “behavior” on others.

    I guess my identity crisis began originally as a concern that I wasn’t being “true to myself”, and honest about my RL appearance and behavior. But as it turned out, it was harder by far to take responsibility for the effect of these dishonesties on others around me.

    Being an avatar started out as an experience of total freedom… but eventually, in order to retain my own sense of self, I’ve had to become more honest than ever before in RL!

    So I changed my profile to read (amongst other disclaimers):
    “Eloise is utterly unreliable”
    – and in the “1st life” section – this:
    “Eloise is the creation of a 38-year old Melbourne woman”.

    And really that’s the stark reality, the black-and-white truth, of my avi’s identity.

  9. dandellion Kimban August 13, 2008 at 7:29 am #

    Oh dear, you raised enough question for the whole blog 🙂

    I consider myself an avatar, actually two of them. They both differ pretty much from my human self. On the other side, both of them are expressions of the person on the other side of the monitor.

    I don’t find “exact” copying of human into avatar to be very truthful. Metaverse is a different world, a different context and it creates and shapes us differently than atomic world. Also, metaverse offers possibilities to explore some parts of our inner selves that are “real” and “truthful” but which simply never got out on the surface iRL. SL is not “the truth reality” it is one of the realities, or better, one of the ways reality can be depicted.

    BTW, that Bennetse’s article about immersion and augmentation, while it started a very important discussion, is misleading. Bennetsen himself had a follow up, and I gave my two cents in an attempt to redefine those terms more suitably: http://metaverse.acidzen.org/2008/what-are-immersion-and-augmentation

  10. Bronte Alcott August 21, 2008 at 8:57 am #

    My primary alt looks like me when I was younger. I was very deliberate about that. I am also very much myself and those who know me, sometimes know me in real life as well. I have not been able to keep the two separate. I’ve isolated other elements of myself, my meditative side, for an alt, for when I really do want to be alone and use this space for renewal. I’ve seen friends go from having a real world connection and lots of honesty to becoming more secretive and creating a greater division between real and second life in new alts. This grows out of relationships that they are trying to enjoy and protect. I think the nature and quality of our relationships drive a lot more of avatar identity than we might think on the surface. For me it is relationships that drive this experience.


  1. Commentary: Worlds Collide: Manifestations of Real Life vs. Second Life® Self-representations « Y Me | digitally encoded genetic machismo - August 21, 2008

    […] what can not be seen with the eyes. Thema Felix recently did a brief post and poll on her blog, The Virtual Version, that broached this subject and gauged resident […]

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