Confession: I have DID, and probably you do, too. What is it? Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is defined in Wikipedia as:
a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities, each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness
I really don’t mean that I am crazy. No, I’m referring to a situation many of us find ourselves within. We’ve got multiple identities, and it can be very difficult to manage.
How many identities do we have? At a minimum, Second Life residents have two: their Real Life identity and their avatar identity. It’s often even more complex, as some people have Alt avatars that may or may not take on another distinct identity. People may participate in yet other virtual worlds, such as WoW or LOTR where more identities exist. As for me, while I do not game, I do operate other blogs in which I take on even more secret identities. How does one deal with all these identities? How do they affect us? According to Wikipedia, DID has the following symptoms, some of which are exhibited by certain SL residents:
- multiple mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs that are dissimilar to each other
- headaches and other body pains
- distortion or loss of subjective time
Given the reality that you’ll have to handle multiple identities across multiple web based services, how do you do it? There are only a few strategies available to us:
- Unique Identities: create a truly unique identity for each environment, in addition to your “real” identity. In practice this approach is unworkable unless you belong to only very few services.
- Unified Identity: extend your real life identity across all the services you use as much as possible. Again, in practice this is difficult to achieve due to naming conventions and the need to be something other than your real identity in certain services. Example: Hamlet Au, many A-List mainstream bloggers
- Blended Identities: create multiple identities, but have no barriers between them. Consequently your real life is not explicitly separate from your virtual identity. Example: Jessyka Richard
- Consistent Identities: create a small set of distinct identities and isolate them from each other. Use one of the identities to register with different services. Example: Veyron Supercharge.
Which strategy is best for you? I think it depends on your need for anonymity. For some of us, anonymity provides the freedom from the constraints of real life to experiment with new approaches to life or the ability to speak freely. If that is the case, then the Unified or Blended strategies are not for you. You may desire separate identities, identical identities, or perhaps it doesn’t matter to you.
I believe that most people choose the Consistent Identities approach, which enables them to achieve anonymity while keeping things as simple as possible when using multiple online services. However, having chosen that identity strategy, what problems will you encounter? How can you overcome them? Let’s save the answers for Part 2!