Away from cyberspace we mark our identities with clothes, hairstyle, shoes; showing (or NOT!) off ourselves to others by visual cues, shaping our outward representations; our public selves.
Not everyone do this in a conscious way. A lot of people don’t even understand they are wearing the equivalent of uniforms, just as others are very much aware that they are in the business of making personal and sometimes political statements.
These visual cues support the individuals within a society in their need for organising their surroundings – which people to feel linked to, which people NOT to feel linked to. Who to listen to and who to dismiss.
This leads to a very prejudiced way of sorting people and their opinions. But, as the proverb goes – “prejudice is the foundation on which society rests”. We need short cuts, or the brain goes down from overload.
So, even while the internet was originally hailed for providing an environment where people were NOT judged based on gender, colour or clothing style we are now witnessing a plethora of ways to differentiate the self from the anonymous collective.
So, at places like Facebook people join groups not to be active parties in a community but to tell others their preferences – a kind of personal tags. And we blog and bedeck ourselves in profile pictures seldom picturing ourselves but rather picked for their subtexts and metaphorical meanings.
I’ve read, in a text not available on-line so I can’t link to it (Reload – rethinking women and cyberculture), that in internet communities where people were free to take on other identities than their own the identity most commonly used is ‘white caucasian male’. Because whatever the social construct those are the people other people listen to without being biased.
So. We need to tell the world where we want to belong, and when what we are don’t coincide with what we need to be to be taken seriously we lend an identity the shape of with fits our needs.
In the on-line world or in the flesh and blood world judging the correctness of those projected images is equally difficult.
But it’s fascinating to see how humans always find a way to satisfy those basic needs. Like announcing identity.