These are some thoughts I wanted to share after reading this post about mIRCs and the creation of anonymous online identities, which was then briefly discussed in a Social Technologies lecture last week. Our lecturer mentioned that this was becoming less common online due to sites such as Facebook/Twitter which encourage authenticity. This creates a culture of people being more open online.
However I believe there are still cases of people adopting online personas in the world of online gaming, even outside of MMO games where a fictional avatar and role play aspects are encouraged (or deliberate RP forums and IRCs such as Gaia.) The nicknames adopted for online gaming are often carried on into related areas such as forums, until several different networks may know and recognise you by this name. Even people whom you have revealed your real name to might prefer to call you by your IGN (in-game name) or ‘handle.’
I’ve recently finished reading ‘Psychology of the Internet’ by Patricia Wallace, which explores the rise of online culture. One phenomena she highlighted is the loss of inhibition when talking under a nickname, which an lead to what she calls ‘extreme reactions’. Although the book was written over a decade ago one problem in online gaming which has become a very hot topic of late, a culture of institutionalised sexism which is only just being researched by people such as Anita Sarkeesian. This is something I’ve occasionally experienced, (I wonder if it is caused by the ‘group culture’ effects explained in Wallace’s book; much like peer bullying in children, people feel it is okay because ‘others do it’.) I should also mention that the not very gender specific handle I use for online gaming causes most people to assume I am male, even though in smaller communities with their own servers I am rarely participating in a particularly male-dominated culture.