Friday, March 2, 2007

Online Identities

Online identities

Why are people more expressive when they are chatting online?
Why are blogs and chatting rooms so popular among the young and the old alike?
Why is telephone getting relegated to the background?

Such questions are very common in today’s world where people look to the internet for information. Gone are the good old days when a person had to rush to a library and search among a pile of thick books to get what he needed. Friendship, bonding, information, shopping, banking and what not- everything is available just a mouse click away.

But as the aphorism goes: "every coin has two sides". We are increasingly living in a world where messaging is fast replacing the spoken word and e-mails have already made letter writing an obsolete art. But the crucial question here is whether anything can replace a good long conversation face to face over a cup of tea or coffee. The lure of the internet lies simply in the fact that a person need not reveal his identity but at the same time he can make himself heard.
Not surprisingly this façade gives the ideal reticent youth more freedom in terms of expression.
The danger ultimately lies in the perception of reality. There have been numerous cases of online flirters being moody and even girls turning out to be jobless middle-aged men. That apart, there have also been cases that have ended in marriages and long lasting friendships. So eventually the correct perception of reality rests with the person himself.

He may take his new found freedom calmly and use it to the benefit of the society or he may turn violent and over confident. At this stage comes the question of education. With virtually no means to check what a child is up to while surfing, the responsibility lies with the child himself. It is up to him not to misuse the trust of his parents. At the same time on a more subtle level, the parents should be able to rightly influence the child and create an atmosphere wherein the child can share his feelings freely with them.

"Why do even the best of people seem to be something back, something secret from the others? Why not just put into words whatever you have in your heart, if you know you mean it? Yet everyone tries to look more forbidding than he really is, as though afraid it would be an insult to his feelings if they were displayed too soon." - Dostoevsky in his famous story ‘White Nights’.

The above questions don’t appear to hold true when one looks at the numerous blogs and online forums at least from the outset. Right from how a person got up late to how he ended up tired, he can share every feeling of his in an online forum without having to feel embarrassed about questioning or puzzled looks. He can at will express his feelings for/against the ruling Government and make his views known on a wide range of public and social issues which he would have normally avoided otherwise.

Along with this freedom comes a price and this is self deception and obsession. Many people end up deceiving themselves and getting too obsessed with their online selves. A perfect moron may claim himself to be intelligent and a terrorist may claim to be of service to the society.

Another issue that deserves special mention is that of online friendship. Many people with amazing alacrity make online friends but shy away from a chance to meet them at the slightest provocation. Why? Is it because they want to deceive themselves? In cases where they actually meet many end up disappointed. So they feel that it would be better if they continue to correspond online. That is the prime reason why the friendship online refuses to move beyond a certain personal level. When one party tries to get too personal, the other party begins to have doubts and second thoughts about the claims made by the former.

The two parties thus agree to carry along playing the same game with both of them knowing all too well that this friendship will never reach a more intimate level.
Let us consider an online social forum that has achieved a tremendous popularity within a short span of time – orkut. It shatters the barriers of internet groups and anybody can virtually become anybody’s friend provided both the parties agree. There are a lot of communities under different categories right from lesbian-only to cryptography. One can very well imagine what benefits and dangerous repercussions this can lead to.

All said, it is eventually the maturity of the person himself which will decide whether these trends will be to his advantage or not. .


Madhuri said...

I think the un-inhibited expression in online blogs is more due to its being a monologuous forum. To a lot of people, blogs are a replacement of journals, where they can write/express unhindered by verbal/non-verbal interruptions of a dialogue.

kooksi said...

well written, well said.. just change the font, will you??