Indeed, we’re getting used to creating profiles in the real world where it seems you can’t subscribe to a website these days without having to create a mini resume for yourself – and they do perform a useful function. Whether we’re selling ourselves to a potential employer or romantic attachment, or simply hoping to connect with like-minded people, profiles can form a very useful means of introduction. Let’s not forget that they also provide a wealth of information to advertisers, site hosts and traffic trackers – in fact, they’re probably more useful to those hidden website crawlers and spies than they are to us!
Even so, there’s a big difference between a profile we choose to share with a specific, targeted audience and the profiles we attach to our sl identities, which can be viewed by anyone inworld, friends and total strangers alike.
What if the real world imposed upon us a requirement to display our full name – visible to all – above our heads at all times? Anyone who’s ever been required to wear a name badge as a requirement of their job will know the discomfort of giving complete strangers the advantage of knowing who you are, whilst you know nothing of them. Take it further though and give the world access to an sl style profile, and the discomfort level steps up several notches.
To give us publicly-accessible real world profiles would be an advertising executive’s wet dream, and the consumer’s worst nightmare come true, but quite apart from that, it would be a huge challenge to our sense of privacy, security and integrity. If you knew that your friends, family, employer, people you pass in the street and complete strangers at a distance had access to your personal thoughts, interests and social groups, favourite people and places, age and relationship status, what would you choose to put in your profile – indeed, what would you feel safe to put in it?
There’s always the option to leave things blank, of course, but in a real world setting what sort of message does that give out? Hopefully, we’d imagine it to say ‘none of your business’, but it’s equally likely it would be interpreted as: ‘i’ve something to hide’; ‘i’m antisocial’; ‘i’m boring’, or, ‘i’m lacking in some way’ – none of which are positive messages, and a blank profile could be as damaging to us as a statement that we nurture romantic attachments with gerbils! The world is very good at reading between the lines, even when there are no lines to be read between, and any profile omission is tantamount to carrying a banner around with us that screams, ‘i am a sexual deviant with no social skills and a criminal record!’.
So the smartypants among us would painstakingly craft a profile that doesn’t come across as overtly trying to avoid saying anything questionable, but provides information on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis – which begs the question, exactly what do people around us need to know? Who really needs to know our name, age and if/to whom we’re partnered? – yet we can’t hide that information, even if we want to. Not that it really matters – even the most expertly put together profile is entirely subjective… say you’re into a particular genre of music and people will instantly typecast you, and if you’re age doesn’t correspond to the sort of music someone of your age ‘should’ enjoy, well they’ll just draw their own conclusions. As for groups and acquaintances… people are just going to go digging the dirt: you may be whiter than the most pristine first fall of snow, but if a friend you quote or mention in your profile happens to have the faintest blemish on their character, or the members of one of your groups have dubious leanings, you’ll be tarred with the same brush. If this is the sort of company you keep, then what on earth are you keeping to yourself? As for hiding those groups… well, we’d all know what that meant!
What about profile picks? If you work in retail, you can forget bigging-up up your favourite competing store. Those clubs you frequent – make sure you read the descriptive blurb: any mention of poles, BDSM or ‘private rooms’ is going to tarnish your character. As for mentioning friends in picks: forget it – you dare not miss one out in sl, imagine what it would be like for real!
No: profiles, for all their worth in the virtual world, would be a complete disaster in the real world – an unwelcome intrusion and a dangerous resource for both the unscrupulous and the unthinking – but, if we did have to have them, i wonder how many of us would have just that one brief line on the ‘Second Life’ tab…
‘My sl and rl are separate – i never mix the two.’
You’re you, you do what you do,
But there’s a rain cloud hangin over you.
I’m me, who else could I be?
If they turn around then I walk away.
Twisted Wheel – We Are Us