Monday, April 2, 2012
I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!
Via several different steps, an interesting topic of identity in virtual worlds came up - centered, of course, on Second Life but certainly extending far beyond across the internet (and even across time, as pen pals are an old phenomena). Who are we through our words, a few descriptions, and occasionally an avatar? What form do we make in the minds of other people when our physical bodies only express themselves through speed and style - when our mind is set free from the tethers of reality? Identity is a magical thing created not within one or another person, but instead along the fuzzy edges where You and I meet, a collaboration between how I present myself and how You read me. I learn about who I am by being reflected back from You, I learn how consistent I am in the eyes and minds of many Yous across the years. Identity is formed in relationship, which might explain why so many people react badly when the details turn out to be different, be it gender or race or age; our assumptions about what other people are capable of is often rooted in physicality - and definitely our reactions (particularly sexual) can be.
I've had a couple of unhappy revelations when I discovered someone was the "wrong" gender for our relationship to ever become physical, but that's more about me than them and what led to my attraction remains, even when the future is made more clear. After one revelation to me, my friend said something to the effect, "You have the wrong story, it's not woman abandoned by an uncaring man, it's woman leaving her leaden spouse to go into the world and find herself." I'm prone to saying I can always find myself in a horror movie; I'm that person killed nearly off screen in the first five minutes. A lot of our narratives depend on old tropes which place a certain worth upon our identity and frame how we view how important we are in the world. We have parts of our identity which we love, and parts we hate, but if you see something reflected in enough eyes it becomes time to own it, let it within us, and come to terms with what it means about who we are and how we are seen.
Deoridhe started on a local MUD and was the replacement name for myself after a relationship dissolved; we had married under certain names - not legally but in the context of the MUD - and I wanted to leave that entirely behind, using an Irish Dictionary. At that time most usernames capped at eight letters, though, so I ended up dropping a vowel out of deoiridhe to form Deoridhe (which was misspelled for the first six months because when I wrote the /h/ it ended up looking like an /l/). Not long after, I ended up joining BayMOO, AmberMUSH, and ISCABBS - all of them larger, text-based internet meeting places. There were no pictures at this time; even my email was Unix based and purely text. AmberMUSH was the only place where I wasn't known by Deoridhe; since it was a roleplaying MUSH, I was known by the names of my characters - but on BayMOO and ISCABBS I was Deoridhe and I found one of the first perks of having an odd, non-gender-specific name; unlike a lot of my female friends, with more standard names and often women's names, I didn't receive much sexual harassment. I used to joke that by the time someone spelt my name correctly, they'd forgotten what they were going to say to me.
In all of these media, you presented yourself with a profile and very little else; there wasn't a searchable history - on BayMOO and AmberMUSH text could be logged but it wasn't automatically reproduced anywhere, and on ISCABBS each "forum" only lasted to 100 posts and then the top end fell off and was gone. I might have had a different experience if I'd started on Usenet, where I believe things were more permanent, but my sense of the internet at that time was of it being a rather transitory place where re-inventing yourself wouldn't be difficult, but after my first reinvention I never felt the need to switch names. My foray into a more permanent media was in a webpage, now long defunct except for a disk on my shelf, and then Livejournal. By that time, my profile had become a rather whimsical take on a biologist's description of what a "deoridhe" would be like, which has been modified now and then since but is consistent across several media. Like BayMOO, my Livejournal contacts were largely locally known to me, but when I took a sideways step to JournalFen I started making more internet friends, and had my first experience of being somewhat notorious, if not exactly well-known, by becoming an inadvertent part of the "not-cabal" for Fandom Wank. That was also one of the first years I had to deal with hearing what peopel might say behind my back; thinking I wasn't part of a locked group, someone mentioned me 'causing trouble' and was very embarrassed when I popped up to respond.
Even before seeing how locked things leave for wider distribution through Fandom Wank, I was leery about what I typed out to represent me and I've largely tried to not say behind someone's back what I wouldn't be willing to say in front of their face (with a couple notable exceptions you guys will never learn about!). Fandom Wank definitely gave me the encouragement to sharpen my wit and learn what might and might not be considered funny by other people. I will never be as stunningly funny as many of the people on there, but I did learn a quick riposte and how to have a thicker skin - something which came in handy when I made another lateral move to Gaia Online and the Religion and Morality forum there. I ended up becoming a bit of a Name in that Forum - enough so that people remember me even now that I've been mostly inactive there for several years. It helps I was a moderator for a while, but out of the door I was a so-called "regular" within a week of beginning to speak up. Many people found me cruel, others found me funny, still others found me wonderful - it was my first taste of what it was like to really stand out and get the critique and pushback which comes along with that, as well as the variety of opinions which form my identity. At a certain point, though, the desire to be Right On The Internet began to wain, which coincided with a friend drawing me to Second Life and roughly where I am today.
In some ways, I feel like I'm very straightforward, but I also think I hold back a lot. I often feel slippery, identity-wise; a collection of smart remarks and opinions hanging off of smoke. I know some people really like me, I know several people still really dislike me; I haven't gotten banned from a place yet, but all it takes is one designer who doesn't like my feedback. When questions of identity come up, though, I'm always most curious about what other people think - identity exists in the hundreds of mirrors reflecting back to me my own face.
( More pictures here. )
Skin: De La Soul, Aestali - Cream Rose
Eyes: De La Soul, RooMee - rainbow (mesh, promotional item)
Eyelashes 1: *X*plosion, PrimLashes
Cosmetics: Adore & Abhor, Doll Face Mask (Motif Special)
Ears: Illusions, Mystic Ears
Hair: Magika, Dare - three color
Hat: Little Boy Blue, Miss Zhakiri's Ice Cream Social
Wings: Fancy Fairy, Azarelle
Ice Cream: Little Boy Blue, Ice Cream from clicking the hat
Dress: Adore & Abhor, Ice Cream Dress (Motif Special)
Boots: G Field, Long Cuff Boots "Will"
Poses: Olive Juice
Location: Split Screen South
Light Settings: Places - Embryo
Water Settings: Glassy
Photographed by Deoridhe Quandry
Post processing: Cropping only