Thursday, 27 September 2012

Affordances of Cyberspace

1.   How do the current characteristics of the internet environment shape our behaviour and affect our psychology there

 One of the main characteristics of the internet environment is identity flexibility. The internet is the biggest identity laboratory in the world, allowing people to become whoever they want. Lack of face to face cues has an impact on how people present their identity in cyberspace as there is no need to be honest about who you really are, you can choose to become any personality you wish. The fact that the main source of online communication is text-based; this allows people to remain themselves, reveal only part of their real identity, or assume total anonymity. 
Anonymity has a disinhibiting effect. It reduces responsibility and allows people to behave in a way – mostly in a negative, malicious way – that they wouldn’t normally in real life. McKenna and Bargh (2000) argue that anonymity will lead to great self-disclosure: “under the protective cloak of anonymity, users can express the way they truly feel and think”. There is nothing to say that there is an innate trait in people that they cannot or do not want to express in real life, but the anonymity of the internet allows them to express this ‘true’ part of themselves without having to deal with the consequences that would occur in real life.
One of the earliest cases of online identity deception was of two popular figures in the online community in the 1980’s. Van Gelder (1991) studied the spectacle of Joan and Alex. Joan had a physical disability which rendered her reluctant to meet people face to face. She therefore created several online friendships with women, and was a confidente to several who had real-life affairs with Alex. However, it turned out that Joan was in fact a persona developed by Alex. Other reported cases by Feldman (2000) involve that of people joining online support groups claiming to have illnesses that they do not actually have. 
My personal opinion is that unless being these alter personalities affects you or other people in any way whatsoever, then there should be no problem continuing it. As McKenna and Bargh (1998) believe, creating online personas of possible selves (a future self that one wishes to become) may serve as an incentive to follow up and act this self in real world – possibly one of the only benefits of creating a virtual identity. 

I came across this wesbite - 
 It allows people to confess online to anything. Again, the anonymity here means people can do this without feeling the guilt of revealing secrets and without feeling the judgement they may get from friends and family if they were to confide in them. 

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