The pace of psychological science has not kept up with the pace of technological progress, leading to a whole slew of issues surrounding our so-called online identities.If you follow psychology as far as it flows into mainstream media, you must have observed the studies surrounding online addiction, marriages, suicidal behavior, and so on. But, these are extremities, and the numerous surveys and research studies don’t address what the rest of the 99% are going through. Yes, there is indeed a conflict we are all experiencing as our digital personae become as or more pervasive as our real ones were never destined to be.
It is a conflict that needs deeper study.
Even in our real lives, we struggle to understand our real self. This illustrates the situation pretty well:
(I am not sure where this abstraction comes from – Carl Rogers comes close)
In essence, we are neither who we think we are, nor are we what others think we are. Our real “self” is embedded in some shadow. Discovering this – our “real self” – is the magic that has spawned generations of godmen and mystics. This quest for the search of our true “identity” has continued for centuries.
What happens when you introduce online identity? This:
The quest for identity has gotten much, much more difficult thanks to the Internet. We are no longer just real human beings living in real lives, visible to sound, sight, and touch – we are now a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Google Plus account, and so on.
These online accounts are identities in themselves. Whether one chooses to associate these online identities with one’s real identity is an individual’s choice. (Reminder – there are over 7 billion people on this planet). But many do, and when they do, there is a conflict. Online and Offline collide in ways one had never thought of before. Yes, they do, just like this.
How does it look when your online persona is very different from what you really are?
The more different you are online than in your real life, the more stress you will feel.
Some people are true to themselves to such an extent that their real life identities match closely with their online identities.
These are folks who experience harmony, with their digital and real self entwined together.
Another way to think about this:
No wonder millions of people are trying to solve the puzzle.