You’re walking into a new setting: a college classroom, a new job, a restaurant, even the movie theatre. Immediately, you’re hit with a stream of new faces, new personalities. Accompanied by a close friend, you’re on the hunt for Jordan, an acquaintance you’ve met via Facebook.
Communicating with Jordan was harmless. You discussed some mutual interests, your educational backgrounds, your love affairs. But, you were drawn to Jordan. It may have been Jordan’s appearance, spontaneity, spirituality or intellectual ability. Perhaps, it’s all of the above. Either way, you’ve made plans to meet this person.
Suddenly, a stranger approaches you. “Hi, I’m Jordan. Well…sorry.” This person looks nothing like their Facebook picture. In the pictures, Jordan was thinner, had different color hair and dressed more stylish. The Jordan in front of you is frumpy and frazzled. Is this the same person that enjoys reading fantasy comics and drinking green tea?
Unfortunately, it looks like Jordan is one of the more than 83 million fake Facebook accounts. Your pal is up there with Rufus the dog, the picture-less account of Melania the Egyptian princess, or “The Real Megan Fox.”
This situation is not farfetched. With Facebook reaching the boondocks to the city life, anyone could be on the receiving end of your messages. But the question is – why fake it?
There’s theory, upon theory, upon theory that attempt to justify why we misrepresent ourselves online. But, John Suler’s “Identity Management in Cyberspace” presents a phenomenal case.
Suler lists several reasons as to why cyberspace invites identity morphing, although I found “level of dissociation and integration” to be the most captivating.
According to Suler, we take on different roles during our day-to-day lives. Throughout the day, we may become “child, parent, student, employee, neighbor [and] friend.” At certain points, we may take on one two, maybe three of these roles, simultaneously. And although the internet offers a medium to connect with these roles, it also allows us to conceal them.
While online, Suler writes, we “are not required to present ourselves in toto: how we look, talk, move, our history, thoughts, feelings and personality…” but instead, we can pick and choose what we’d like others to see. Or, who we’d like to be.
In my experience with “Catfish” (see my previous post) and Facebook profiles, an attractive picture and appealing persona is usually attached to the fake accounts. When the users’ true identity is revealed, many of them express an inadequacy within themselves or a desire to be accepted. And when your voice is tied to someone else’s looks, a sense of anonymity remains.
I know it’s illogical to rely so many of my beliefs on reality television, but the truths are clear.
I’m more or less wondering what passes through the minds of people who choose to operate under a fake profile. I’d love to interview someone with this experience one day. I mean, I’d love to message people with Adriana Lima’s photo, claiming that it’s “really me,” but I don’t, because I want people to meet me. The real me. If you’re interacting with others under a false pretense, the potential of a real relationship is limited. Or so I feel.
Don’t these people know that the fun and games can only last so long until their caught?