So here’s something i’ve not done before – a whole week of posts on a common theme, in which i’m planning to consider how concepts familiar to us in a virtual setting might translate to the real world. My initial thoughts are that things we’re completely comfortable with inworld are likely to feel distinctly discomforting when placed in a real world context… but let’s see, shall we?
Today, let’s think about alts. Often opinions about alts are polarised – some love them, some hate them; some feel they’re harmless, others view those who have alts with suspicion. They can be used maliciously or for completely harmless pursuits; for practicality or frivolous reasons; some struggle to maintain one virtual persona, whilst others thrive on multiple personalities.
But, just imagine what life would be like if we could have alts in the real world.
Just how comfortable would you feel if your friends, relatives colleagues and everyone else around you had the ability to assume any identity they fancied at will… a different look, different attributes and personalities, maybe even a different sex? And what about the moral and ethical dilemmas we ourselves might face if we had that same ability?
Frankly, it strikes me as a terrifying prospect – which is perhaps a little odd, since i have no problem with people assuming alternative identities in sl – but within real life circumstances, the potential for mischief, misdemeanor and even absolute anarchy is frightening. It’s pretty much inevitable that the criminal fraternity would be amongst the first grab the opportunity to wreak havoc, using disposable alts as easily as disposable ‘phones and email addresses – the perfect crime would become a simple matter of swapping identities and law enforcement would become near impossible. How do you know you’ve imprisoned the right person, and even if you did, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll already have another identity out there, ready to take over where the last one left off. Maybe we’d find a way to police, or at least limit the use of alts for illegal activity, but i’d still be worried.
There is a less sinister, but perhaps equally disturbing consideration that has to be considered with rl alts – we’re already familiar with the way in which alt usage can lead to lack of trust in the virtual community, imagine then how alts would lead to the undermining of trust in rl? Could you live with the knowledge that your nearest and dearest might – totally unknown to you – possess a completely separate and distinct identity? Imagine a situation where you could walk past your significant other in the street without any hint of recognition, whilst they are secure in the knowledge that you have no idea whom they really are. RL alts would almost certainly lead to the break up of relationships, family life and commercial and business stability. In fact, it’s not hard to extrapolate that – even without the effects of criminal activity – rl alts could easily lead to a complete breakdown of society as we know it. That strikes me as a very bad thing indeed!
Alts, do of course have possible benefits – there are plenty of legitimate commercial and social reasons why alts could benefit society as a whole, but i’d hesitate to suggest that those outweigh the disadvantages, especially when we come to questioning whether such a drastic and fundamental ability is actually necessary. The modern world already offers numerous opportunities for all of us to assume multiple identities that may be at variance to what might be considered our true selves, or vice versa. Within my own circle of rl friends and acquaintances i know there are those who could be said to live double, or even multiple lives, only known to those whom they choose to reveal their secrets to. Whilst, on occasion, this might lead to questionable activities, by and large these alter-egos are ultimately harmless and extremely beneficial to those who cultivate them. Whether it’s that fake email address they use to avoid spam, or the interest group they might associate with during those infrequent weekends ‘away’, there can be valid reasons for keeping their everyday identity – and maybe even personality – distinct and private.
To an extent, most of us are guilty of cultivating rl alts – when i’m home alone, you’d see a completely different person than when i’m working, when i might assume the personality of ‘the boss’; when i write online, my personality changes subtly again; and yes, the sl me is in many ways an alt of the real me – although i’m not altogether sure whether the ‘real’ me is the rl or virtual version sometimes!
And i think that’s the way i’d prefer to keep things – alts are ok for sl, whether you feel good bad, or indifferent about them – but please, restrict them to the virtual world… life is quite difficult enough having just real people to deal with, without a plethora of fake ones following in their wake!
Hazel sits by the bar
drinking beer and advocaat
has to sneak out for her tar
she thinks no one knows she smokes
little does she know
little do we know
Twisted Wheel – Bouncing Bomb