Letters of Life

Repost: Living Life in Multiple Realities

20 Feb 2012: This is one of my favourite posts of 2010 because in my view, virtual reality can be true, but isn’t necessarily accurate. In other ways, the online you is not quite you. Recently, Joel Stein wrote in Time magazine that Facebook exists to make one jealous. He writes, “Why does that person have more friends than I do? Why do they go to such fun places while I’m at work?” That’s what makes the virtual world fun because you can reinvent yourself every day, every hour, every second. The question is, what makes us do that? 

Come, there’s no use in crying like that!” said Alice to herself, rather sharply. “I advise you to leave off this minute!” She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.    — Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 

Although Lewis Carroll wrote this in 1865–that’s a mind-boggling 145 years ago–the ability to affect multiple personas is SO possible today. With a little imagination, you can put a gloss to everyday life with finely-worded updates on Facebook, posting holiday pictures of turquoise waters and stunning sunsets, raving with friends, and generally looking like you’re off to/just came back from somewhere wonderful.

In fact, you can go to the logical extreme of changing skin colour (we suggest deep cobalt), acquire dreadlocks, and for fun, grow a lithesome tail. But I digress. I know most of us generally don’t put on the gloss, because we like to share our real lives, hour by honest hour, with our friends and it’s fun to post about vids and bits we really find interesting.

But still. I had half a mind to do that—create another persona— but of course, it’s too late. People *know* I don’t lead the glamourous life. (Without love, it ain’t much, sang Chaka Khan.)

Then there’s blogging. The sky’s the limit with blogging. You can adopt someone else’s name, lifestyle, blog about a life entirely not your own, and in effect, besomeone else on a blog, and no one would know. The funny thing is, even if the friends of this person you’re impersonating did know, they wouldn’t mind because the reality of online identities, like avatars, by definition have an element of fantasy and fiction about them.

Do I really want my nose flattened?

That’s why everyone loves Facebook and why Mr Cameron’s Avatar recently earned a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. Just to factcheck, we’ll tune in again ’round about Oscar night in March. [Avatar won three Oscars for art direction, cinematography, and visual effects.]

And for birdbrains, there’s Twitter. Twitter puns abound, and I love ’em.

Twitter is to Facebook what haikus are to epic poems, wrote online business columnist Cliff Ennico. The 140-character rule forces one to telegraph thoughts and questions in elegant word capsules. And I thought ‘telegraph’ had gone the way of the dodo.

Did you know that one rule of the Fine Art of Tweeting is to let one’s personality shine through? None of that I-had-a quiet-breakfast-and-the-eggs-were-fab variety. Unless of course, everyone else is having a black Monday and you tweet about breakfast to rub it in. Tee hee.

And what personality do I want to shine through today? My own, of course. With that, I leave you one of my favourite quotes from Alice:

Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.
Alice replied, rather shyly, “I hardly know, Sir, just at present. At least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

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