In this week’s lecture, guest lecturer Dr Chris Moore went through what it means to create an online persona or mask, and why it is we do it. Often it is thought that when we use a mask online, it is because we are hiding something or are ashamed of our true selves, or simply want to escape problems we may have in our lives by becoming someone else more desirable. But, this isn’t always the case, people create a different image of themselves or even hide themselves online for many different reasons.
According to a Buzzfeed article on fake online identities, Dr Chris Fullwood, a cyberpsychologist at the University of Wolverhampton, told BuzzFeed News that by creating a false identity, some people are trying to narrow the gap between their imagined ideal self and how they actually see themselves. He also went on to suggest that for a generation who have a slightly tweaked version of their personality for different platforms and situations – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, text messages, real-life interactions – perhaps it’s understandable that people take the leap to making significant changes to their persona, or even inventing new ones.
I found this very interesting, and easy to relate to, as, due to the nature of the different social media platforms, I’m obviously going to be a different person on Instagram than I am on Twitter, simply because my respective profiles for each have built up my personas in different ways.
(Created via Giphy)
But, in this article on Mumamia, a woman admits to being addicted to making fake online accounts. The woman (who was kept anonymous in the article) tells Mumamia how, in her teens, her real personal life was falling apart because of her parents’ problems, so as a way of escaping what was going on around her, she became someone else online.
“I wanted to be anyone but me — I wanted a different outcome, a different life. I wanted to be a different person. And with MySpace, I realised I could”
By stealing photos that belonged to someone else and using them on a fake account, the woman could create a different version of herself that was happier, and more confident. Ultimately, she was caught out, but it didn’t stop her, she ended up dedicating 8 years of her life to this fake online persona.
This story is an accurate reflection of so many fake online personas that exist, and that are only increasing as creating and sharing on social media gets easier and easier. The internet is definitely a scary place when you start to question who is real and who is not.