When the Internet was created, Kevin Kelly said “It’s not hard to find smart people saying stupid things about the Internet,” but today, it is hard not to find smart people saying stupid things ON the internet. These being things that are not only just words, but words that come together and form an alternate personality of the person who is behind the screen typing them.
Sherry Turkle explains in her article Who Am We that “There is Sherry Turkle the writer of books. Sherry the professor, who has mentored MIT students for nearly 20 years. And there is the cyberspace explorer, the woman who might log on as a man, or as another woman, or as, simply, ST.”
This example shows that you never really know who you are talking to on the internet. It can be any version of a person that they choose to create or have you view them as. It doesn’t matter if that aspect of them is true or not because there is a whole virtual world between them and who they are communicating with.
It could be creating a different identity through online applications, social media sites, chats, or even online relationships. The fact is that many people lie in more ways than one on their social media profiles and accounts. Christopher Poole, a 24 year old who actually created his own social media network called 4chan even says “I would not call what you have on Facebook ‘authentic’ identity.”
The internet provides a type of mask and this mask gives internet users the ability to hide whatever they’d like about themselves. Michael Wesch says in his video “The Machine is Us/ing Us” that we need to rethink identity on the internet. With such falsity of identity on the internet and the situations that it could lead to, should we be rethinking this freedom?
Web 2.0 technologies, allows us as Americans to really embrace the freedom of speech we were given, often times, taking it to the absolute limit. “Electronic technology provides a range of new possibilities,” as Bolter points out. Regardless, it is a freedom, and something we all take advantage of. After all that’s what rights are for, isn’t it?
New technologies have given us opportunities to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas with people around the world on blogs, such as WordPress. Bolter explains, “ T he open architecture of the World Wide Web allowed individuals to create sites and add them to the Web without the approval of any authority. We are free to talk about anything we want, for as long as want. And then we can network with people who share our beliefs as well , creating one big community, together.
Social networking sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, really give us the chance to push our boundaries on freedom of speech. Sherry Turkle says, “Life on the screen permits us to “project ourselves into our own dramas, dramas in which we are producer, director, and star…. Computer screens are the new location for our fantasies, both erotic and intellectual.” Millions of users at once can interact with each other, having conversations, and sharing whatever unfiltered thoughts happen to run through their minds.
This can also mean, we are learning to use our freedoms in a negative way as well. I can call you stupid, or worse, and it will stay there on the internet for everyone to see. Even your grandmom. Whether it is socially acceptable or not, I am not doing anything wrong, I am exercising my rights. And technology is allowing me to do so for the world to see.
Web 2.0 technologies are not regulated by government, and no one can tell us what to do . Social Blog argues that “ protecting our first amendment right”, is the reason this is so. We are free to bully, date, and make fun of anyone we want. After all, that’s the point of freedom , isn’t it?
When a cute boy/girl adds you or follows you it never really occurs to us that he/she may be lying about their identity. As Tim O’Reilly states in his article “Who am we “The psychological effects of life on the screen can be complicated: a safe place is not all that is needed for personal change.” Just because we use these sites on the daily doesn’t mean that who we are talking to is being completely honest with us.
As we all know we have freedom of speech. We can say whatever we please and express any emotion or opinion we have without consequence. So people making up who they are online is no different. I could tell someone that I have blonde hair and blue eyes, that I’m 5’8 and going to school to as a PR major, and guess what? If the picture matched they would probably believe me. Many relationships start online and are based off of lies that we tell people to make ourselves feel more confident or special. I feel that one of the reasons people do this without guilt is because it may boost their confidence in themselves and allow them to be whoever they want to be. O’Reilly discusses this further.” Some women who play male characters desire invisibility or permission to be more outspoken or aggressive.” Another reason that people may feel guilt free about this is because they know they won’t drag out the relationship that long. “Relationships during adolescence are usually bounded by a mutual understanding that they involve limited commitment. Virtual space is well suited to such relationships” If this is the case no one is going to get hurt, right? Wrong. There have actually been multiple documentaries done and recently and MTV show called “Catfish” that revolve around this topic. Lying to people on the internet not only messes with their emotions but it is morally wrong. And yet nothing can be done about this because it isn’t breaking a law and it isn’t physically harming anyone. We have the freedom to do and say as we please on the internet. “We can pretend to be who ever we want to be, which is a scary yet creative thing”.
So here is my question, clearly pretending to be someone you’re not is morally wrong and when over using this privilege it can be emotionally damaging to all of the people involved. Should there be limitations on this? Should there be a law against this? Or should it remain the same way it is today due to the fact that we have freedom of speech?