Tackling the Self

Common stereotyping picture SL residents as being “escapists”. It’s not infrequent that we meet some person in SL which will tell us that SL “allows them to be more themselves”; what this usually means is that these persons will feel somehow that the daily grind of meatspace will somehow constrict them into a specific behaviour which they dislike, and, by logging in, “become” someone different. Others just role-play deliberately, and thus automatically assume they’re completely “different persons” while logged in, but assume it’s merely a game they’re playing and nothing else. Others, of course, are just interested in dating. Most of us might not fall in either classification but are somehow in-between: we might tease a bit, we might not fully reveal our personalities, we might even act a bit, but, in general, we claim to be who we are in real life.

But are we really?

In fact, whatever we tell our friends — whatever we tell ourselves — what we’re actually experiencing is the plasticity of our “self”. Instead of something fixed, immutable, and indefinitely tied to our bodies, we swiftly rearrange facets of our personality while logged in — where we just have a body of pixels — and interact with others differently. Perhaps not too differently, but that’s not the point; the point is that we can, in fact, change something. And for many of us it’s the first direct experience where we realise that what we call the “self”, the “ego”, or even (for the religious and spiritual ones) the “soul” — something immutable and permanent which is always bound to us — is nothing like that. It can, and does, change a lot, and it changes far more easier than we expect, or even admit to ourselves.

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