Essay Girl

You only live once- but if you work it right, once is enough.
~Joe E. Lewis
This is actually an essay I did for my Literature in Pop Culture Class. I am very thankful to Wilmaryad O'Scallas for his help in this paper and permission to use his words in this text. Not to mention assistance in the proofreading and editing. For more words from him, check out his blog: . The purpose of this paper was to identify a key component of life in this technological Internet age. I chose the concept of Identity on the Internet and how it is not necessarily such a form of escapism but a sense of true self. I lost 1 point on the project because I put on a cover sheet which is APA styling not MLA.
A Greater Sense of Self:
The Rise of True Identity Through the Internet
Who am I? is the question identity seeks to answer. It gives importance to the wielder who knows who they are and what they want. The Real World allows the formation of identity easily. The place where a person grows up, the people they surround themselves with are all factors to create a person. However, there is a part locked within that is still a part of the person but cannot be displayed for all the world to know. A sort of secret self that must remain hidden due to the social pressures of Real Life. The advent of the Internet, however, allowed for a greater sense of self and a place for the many facets of identity to shine brightly.
Initially the Internet was a form of escape. The user could log in and be who/what-ever they desired. Role-playing games are still an online pleasure and offer a chance to show off skills no longer available in the real world, such as the masculine man slaying hordes of demons. There is networking within the games and friendships are fostered. It is not the avatar that becomes known to other, but the person playing. (Roesler, 427)
Now there is a shift to this strategy. Instead of hiding one’s unacceptable traits, the Internet allows the creation of communities for those sharing the same interests or desires. The social pressures to establish and prove themselves real men is lifted from men, and women are allowed to get to know a person better before meeting them thanks to the Internet. (Roesler, 427) Individuals create themselves and are defined by others and this is what goes into the creation of identity, but how can identity be determined or measured?
Most research is staged. The participants know they are being watched. This means results will be inaccurate. Research has not been followed through as to how on-line identities emerge. (Giles, 465) It also takes time to establish one’s self within a community. The level of commitment to the research takes its toll and the research needs to use tiptoe around sensitive situations as to not implicate or prejudice themselves or the observed party. (McKenna, 62)
Web logs, or blogs, have become an integral part of the creation of identity. A new blog is created every second of every day. (Zamora) It is simple to create them and once the writer has made their point or wishes to dismiss the blog they can remove it or start another.
What has started this phenomenon? It is a need within the author. It allows the person to be the star of their own show. It also is a staging ground for identifying with others. When it comes to certain topics the Internet may be the only source to find like minded people. (Zamora)
This is true if the topic is especially controversial. There are blogs and newsgroups on nearly every topic from white supremacist to pro-anorexia to homosexuality. The Internet allows these people to gather. It also allows a place for those who do not have anywhere else to go.
As Wilmaryad O’Scallas, the author of the blog Gay Arab Guy put it:
I hate the word blog; it sounds awful. I write because there is no
way for me to express what's boiling inside me. I have distanced
myself from anybody who's ever called themselves a friend, because
most betrayed my trust or are simply gay-unfriendly.
Sharing my worries with my family is even more difficult. I live
in a Muslim Arab country where homosexuality is a dishonor that
threatens the tradition of honor preservation. So, even if my own
family is not very religious, they care about what people say.
Therefore, I can't simply confide in my mother or brothers when
I, for example, go through a heartache.
I write anonymously because I would be in trouble if somebody
who knows me happened to read my blog. In fact, if you are outed or
"unmasked" as being gay in my country, you can wish your peace
of mind goodbye.
(O’Scallas, interview 1/27/10)
Therefore, a more true personality is unleashed on the cyber world.
Of course, being open with one’s personality opens a larger risk of rejection. Haters emerge. These are people who disagree with the initial idea and ‘flame’ the author. Flaming is the use of abusive and often derogatory language toward another person. (Giles, 471) The anonymity, therefore, goes both ways. The author of the topic or thread has limited interaction with those who respond, and the flamer has the option of anonymity as well.
Whereas this situation may cause the individual to become more isolated and reclusive in Real Life, the online world allows a greater chance of support. Followers of a thread or blog can voice their opinion and often the flamer becomes flamed. (Giles, 471) The distance between people is suddenly narrowed; people living half a world away can now communicate and show support.(Talamo, 110) Research has also shown that the relationships formed on the Internet are real and many have reported that the online friends are just as important as those they see daily. (McKenna, 72)
One need only look to the article by Allucquere Rosanne Stone regarding case of Julie Graham/Sanford Lewin. Those within the social group that considered Julie a real person and loved her as a friend were crushed when they found out about the deception. (123-141) The human set of emotions does not necessarily need to meet or be near a person to form a bond.
The use of the Internet to shift personality and identity is also high. It is hard to change a Real Life personality. When friends, family, or co-workers see a shift in persona they can easily veto the change. Because of this rejection the person will revert to the way they were. The experiment has failed. (McKenna, 60)
However, in the Virtual World, new social scenes are established. In the process self-concept is allowed to change. The stereotypes that plague an individual in the real world are no longer enforced. The slate is wiped clean, so to speak.
The boundaries blur though, if a person enters a meaningful discussion online and finds the effects positive, more of those traits will show off-line. (Talamo, 111)
No matter the mask, the reality behind the person shows through. Hiding from inner truths is very difficult and the character has to be perfect in order for it to be maintained. This, however becomes consuming and, just as positive traits can change a person, negative ones can surface and create a new identity.
Mr. Bungle’s explanation of his actions in Julian Dibbell’s A Rape in Cyberspace : “I engaged in a bit of psychological device… It was purely sequence of events with no consequence on my RL existence.(167)” may seem to argue against the point of this paper, but it cements an aspect. There is a part within every person that they bring forward in the online world they would never do in Real Life. There are hidden desires that make up the identity and cannot be expressed. This is what was meant by a greater sense of self.

Works Cited
Dibbell, Jullian. "A Rape in Cyberspace." CyberReader. Joseph Opiela, 2005. 155-77. Print.
Giles, David. "Constructing Identities In Cyberspace: The Case of Easting Disorders." British Journal of Social Psychology 45.3 (2006): 463-77. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
McKenna, Katelyn, and John A. Bargh. "Plan 9 From Cyberspace: The Implications of the Internet for Personality and Social Psychology." Personality & Social Psychology Review 4.1 (2000): 57-75. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
O'Scallas, Wilmaryad. "Blogging in the Dark: Necessity of Anonymity." Online interview. 26 Jan. 2010.
Roesler, Christian. "The Self in Cyberspace." Journal of Analytical Psychology 53.3 (2008): 421-36. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
Rosanne Stone, Allucquere, ed. "In Novel Conditions: The Cross-Dressing Psychiatrist." CyberReader. Joseph Opiela, 2005. 123-41. Print.
Talamo, Alessandra, and Beatrice Ligorio. "Strategic Identities in Cyberspace." CyberPsychology & Behavior 4.1 (2001): 109-22. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
Zemora, Dulce. "How Blogs Have Changed The World." WebMD - Better information. Better health. 24 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2010. .


Gwei Mui April 18, 2010 at 2:19 AM  

Andrea what an essay! I'm going to have to read this at least once more to understand and appreciate fully all that's contained in your piece. But it's very interesting and I agree having an existence outside of our real lives does somehow give us permission to be more of who we really are or show a side of ourselves that conventionality dampens. Great post thanks for sharing

Daannamae April 19, 2010 at 9:40 PM  

Get this published!!!

Wilmaryad Oscallas April 25, 2010 at 8:19 PM  

Yup. This is what my gal can do with words! Talent is, obviously, there. :)

This is a flattering way for me to get back to commenting on here, after an involuntary escape. Good to be back!

What are you doing on your BDay this year? ;)

Andrea Leigh April 27, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

On my Bday I'm going to be working *sigh* but Kevin and I went to House on the Rock today and we are going to go to The Lion King on Sunday. He supposedly has a surprise lined up for me too, because he does not want me looking at the pictures on his phone...

Story April 29, 2010 at 8:06 AM  

Andrea - thank you for the insight left on Wil's blog. I wanted to respond here as I don't want to take over the comments there to talk about m'self :-P.

I am torn when it comes to my job. I love what my organization does - they make a difference and do so for one of few causes that means something to me. So that's good... I am proud to say where I work. What is not so good is that with the amount of work I am given, I cannot possibly do my work properly in a regular work day. I can't even do it working overtime. I express this to my boss all the time, but it falls on deaf ears because everyone at the organization is having the same problem. I highly doubt I will ever get back what I've given. I've seen people do more than I have and never get anything back in terms of position, pay or even a pat on the back.

So what I do helps a lot of other people... and I can pay my bills. Good and good. But I have nightmares about my job because the situation on the whole is impossible (wrong job - you are right, but in this economic climate - despite my efforts, I cannot find another one).

Anyway, I will be checking out your blog when I return from work today. I must apologize for taking over YOUR blog to talk about myself. What you said struck a chord, so here I am.

Andrea Leigh April 29, 2010 at 4:13 PM  

I have no problems with you talking about yourself here. ^_^ It's part of why BrokenGirl got started. It's a sounding board!

Story April 29, 2010 at 6:08 PM  

Hi Andrea,

I spent quite some time on your blog this evening! You are a talented story teller and have lead an interesting life so far! I am a follower now and look forward to reading more.

Keep it up!


Andrea Leigh April 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM  

Thank you Lisa, and welcome ^_^

Wilmaryad Oscallas April 30, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

You deserve all the happiness a Kevin can provide, Andrea. :) Good for you, babe! :)


Welcome to my little part of the blogosphere. I started this blog for the express purpose of proving that no matter what happens in life, you are not alone. I am sharing my stories from my school days, dating disasters, and personal trials.