before you could be some nameless experience, you could be whatever you wanted, and as a result no one took your identity too seriously. you could be whatever. a person presenting as male online could be female, a person presenting as straight online could be gay, so everyone kept an open mind. perhaps some started to experience a breakdown in these concepts generally, maybe even irl. after all, that desi clerk could actually be a beautiful blonde australian online, or whatever, so who cares? the avatar was something that gave you the chance to choose an apparition of yourself, and you could change it whenever...
of course all this came crashing down sometime in the last 6 or 8 years, when all of the sudden we were suddenly supposed to be putting ourselves online. the anarchy of identity had to be corralled somehow and exposed to the market. would you ever put a sign out your front door with an attractive headshot and listing your favorite games and music? let your friends come by and write things? let strangers look on your life and own a piece of it? imagine, you go up to a stranger on the street and start to discuss the most personal parts of your sexuality and experiences with them... of course, this is quaint and a little perverted - yet totally acceptable! - within an anonymous framework, when we can never really be sure if the other is telling us the truth (and they always are in a way) and so we chalk it up to the strangeness of the medium. but is the medium changing us now?
people criticized the "walled garden" of AOL, but what about now? hasn't the market created the same "walled garden" around hubs like facebook, gmail, etc? as for our identities, are they any less constructed - only now by others? the only issue with that is when the faces begin to meld with the names, when we begin to think that our identity is truly that which is subjected to the market. for a while we had "open source" identities and so everything was elevated to the realm of ideas. of course we had our own subjective experiences tied to real factors irl that influenced our thinking, but we were not going to be reduced to this online. nowadays, though, we are forced at gunpoint to produce those unchanging qualifiers - race, gender, age, sexual orientation, nationality - so that we may be easily and quickly streamlined into the marketplace of discourse. as we became more and more comfortable putting photos of ourselves out for public view against the advice of our mothers, we lost that freedom in the possibility to be anything... we turned the corner and found ourselves face-to-face with our own grinning headshot, personalities again reduced to a few blurbs and favorite quotes, our gender, age, race, and nationality.
a poster described me as having the possibility to be "anything" and I miss that.. I miss being able to be anything, not being dragged down by this sack of aging meat and bones... I try and aspire to have that fluidity and adaptability. as my worlds collide and become smaller and smaller, as I marry online identities to my irl one, I become more and more terrified of the world closing in on me. the fragile freedom of a childhood spent flirting in AOL chat rooms far from the eyes of white cissexual male patriarchy is being torn from my children and grandchildren's futures... what is to be done?