Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Cell Analogy: The Tissue- Online Identity

Having looked that the "cells" of gender exploration in the online world I'm moving away from such a specific topic and broadening the vision in this post to help my readers begin to get the bigger picture on why my thesis matters. Originally when I started this blog, it was to explore the similarities between the Renaissance time period's exploration of gender through the transvestite theater and how that is echoed in today's modern social networking sites, the bloggosphere in specific. Yet through talking with some of the people who read my blog, I came to understand I needed to broaden my view to not just say that it's important, but why it's important. So today I'm going to talk about the larger issue, that being online identity.

Let me preface this all by saying, this is not going to be an in-depth analysis of online identity and its uses/shortcomings. That's not my point. My point is to bring up an issue. If you're interested in this topic, I refer you to my colleague, Heather's, blog Musings of a College Kid, where she has some great current information regarding the issue of online identity.

Now, on with the show!

Many Cells, One Coherence
Gender, sex, racial, ethnic, and social identity are all "cells" which comprise the problem of online identity, the "tissue" in this analogy. But why is this a problem? Well think about it, do you present yourself as the same person on all the social networking platforms you participate in online? Maybe, maybe not. My friend, Daily, commented that I am a different person here on my blog than on Facebook (her description being "On your blog you discuss issues which make my mind explode, but on facebook you're so...'WAAAAAAAAHOOOOOO!!!'...two different people but both you!") The problem here being if presentation of self is so diverse, does the internet create and encourage so many "Me's" that it's not possible to be one unified whole? Are we the epitome of postmodern thinkers who believe in the fragmented state of the human condition? Well, in the words of my friend Heather, she states as the thesis of her blog, "I would argue that online identity establishment consists of a singular, visible identity that is created by the aggregate of multiple online identities" to which I heartily concur. We are one made of many. Many organs creating one organism.

In the words of Davey Winder, author of the book Being Virtual: Who You Really Are Online,
I was destined to become the sum of my parts, a composite personality.

It's not that internet users have a multiple personality disorder, it's quite the opposite. They have one personality which is made up of many different parts (gender, sex, ethnicity, race, social class, etc.) and those constituent parts themselves are made up of even smaller parts. Just as a tissue is made of cells, a cell is made of molecules and cell of gender identity is comprised of the molecules "masculine" and "feminine." It is important to examine each part, looking at it in perspective of the whole to see its strengths and shortcomings in its relation to the whole.
There can be no one part of us that reflects all we are.
-Being Virtual: Who You Really Are Online
Just as our clothing is an outward appearance to the world of our multiple situations and personalities, our online avatars are the "clothing" in which we dress ourselves in the social spheres we participate in, each part participating in the whole "Me."

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