In a previous discussion while talking over the article “Studying The Digital Self” we went in depth into on-line alternative identities. There are many upsides to digital identities but there are also downsides involving stealthy users. I have played many video games in my life and have seen friends become less shy as they learned how to communicate more through their cyber identity. Unfortunately, there are cases when using alternative identities can go wrong. For instance, some people use alternative identities to disguise themselves as someone younger to meet someone younger.
There are many upsides of alternative identities, which can include becoming more cognitive, by being able to communicate more. Some people may suffer from mental disorders and can get help by talking online to people instead of completely isolating themselves. People can also get medical help, which they might not ask, in real life due to the nature of the problem. For instance, one can visit medical sites and create a fake user name and ask a doctor what is wrong anonymously. Games are a large contribution to alternative identities, which can help be an escape for many to get out of their real life. Some people can get so in depth with alternative identities and join guilds in role playing games like World of Warcraft where they can be a whole new person.
There are many downsides to alternate identities, the worst being predators. Online predators have been a big law enforcement target lately especially when alternative identities are created by someone to meet a underage children. Dateline NBC has cracked down on this and created a tv show ”To Catch a Predator” to bring attention to the problem and decrease these crimes. On a less serious scale there is a show called “Catfish” which helps a person with a long-term relationship discover their online sweet heart. The person normally has never met the love in person, nor heard her voice. The tv show finds whom they’ve been talking to and drives to their doorstep to see what happens. The results vary but do have huge left turns for instance learning the girl you’ve been looking for, for years turns out to be a guy.Very rarely would you find the “catfish” being totally honest about their life story. Alternative identities can also be bad when it comes to cyber bullying. This is due to people creating fake avatars or other screen names to harass a person without them knowing who is saying it.
So overall we see a mixed usage of on-line alternative identities. Like any new technology there is no doubt differences in these by age, gender, spatial considerations, and temporal aspects. In the above predator cases the highest percentage of predators are men older than younger females and more cases occur in the evening. But this varies by geographical region and country. The case of fake identities to help with medical problems no doubt also varies by region and socio-economic class or the type of medical problem. Alternative identities help many people with mental illness because they will not be judged over a particular impairment they may have. With proper safety and usage alternate identities can have positive outcomes. There need to be laws to limit the negative sides of alternative identities as cyber-based life increases. As long as a alternative identity is used and not abused it can be used in more good ways than bad.