Wednesday, April 5, 2017

From Avatars to Dating Sites

I don’t think it is a stretch to say someone is accessing social media somewhere every minute of everyday. We can be so glued to our devices. But why? Why do we spend hours a day on social media putting up a facade; pretending and sharing with the world? I would venture to say that for the most part, people present their best self or even a fake self on social media. From what I have seen and experienced myself, this facade stems from the fear of judgement and rejection. We are afraid of what others will think of us if we show our true colors.

As we look at the article “Performing the Looking-Glass Self: Avatar Appearance and Group Identity in Second Life by Mia Consalvo, we learn that, “the virtual world Second Life (SL) offers its residents extraordinarily complex tools to design visual representations of themselves as avatars”.
 
You don’t have to be artistically inclined or have complex design skills to create and display an avatar online for all to see. These avatars seem to have certain things in common, says Consalvo. She says that you will see that “most avatars are human, or at least humanoid, and most of them are recognizably Caucasian; most are young and beautiful; most correspond to traditional gender distinctions in shape and dress.” Consalvo goes on to say that these facts are interesting because people can make up any type of avatar such as dragons or robots, monsters or other animals but they choose human avatars most of the time.


What I want to do is take these facts and twist them a little. Social media is not the only place where avatars have similar attributes. These avatars recur on dating sites. People tend present themselves in similar ways according to what people are looking for. It can all be fake. Why tell the truth when you can skew the truth so that you are more likable online? I have visited different dating sites and have found (for the most part) no restrictions on what you can put on them and what kind of avatar or profile you can create.

Being single and ready to mingle can make a person desperate to catch someone's attention. We put our best "selfie" on the website and describe ourselves the way we think people want instead of putting something about who we really are. We create a separate self with the face of our selfie avatar. I honestly have a hard time with this. I am a people pleaser and am guilty of stretching the truth a bit. Instead of putting that I like camping but love art, I might say that I like art but have a love for the outdoors. Also, I have freedom to put that I am a red head instead of stating the facts, that I am strawberry blonde. I can even change the filter so that my face looks flawless.  

I think that this is creating a world of lies. We are starting to figure out that we can be whoever we want to be even if it is totally different than who we really are. Social media and dating sites have created this "second life" or life separate from the reality that we live in. It can be fun and innocent on one hand but manipulative and misleading on the other. 

So here is my question: Why do you create an avatar? How does your avatar compare to you in real life?

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