‘Avatar’, comes from Sanskrit. It’s used for a being or God descending from a higher plane of existence, wearing an incarnate manifestation, before returning to the higher place. It’s normally used in reference to gods, and by that definition, I guess we are all gods looking down into the virtual places, manifesting through virtual representations of ourselves.
It is true, that we give our avatar personality, just as we do to cartoon characters on the screen. Yet, as with the more ‘godly’ avatars, these are always self-built creations. Everyone’s built a character and personality for themselves and has decide upon the way they’ll look.
Therefore, each avatar is an expression of that persons’ hopes, dreams, imagination and is often a model of their ‘perfect self’. I admit this isn’t always the case, and some have a fun time trying out different and often weird styles, however after a longer period of use, people usually settle with something they feel will reflect who they are in the real world, or who they’d like to be seen as.
As you can see above – my avatar reflects how I would ‘like’ to be seen. It’s an idea of my ideal self at around 18 years of age, how I imagine I looked and dressed… with the wisdom I now have (of course). Oh! not the hair – that came straight out of my imagination – and a virtual shop in SL.
Alts – How Do You Know it’s Me?
Without going to deep into the psychology of it all. Studies in psychology have shown that each of us exists in the same mindset as one another; we share common visions and goals. We’re seen in virtual worlds as we like to represent ourselves in the real world. Even thought we think we hide our true personalities, yes even as a ‘fox’, ‘rabbit’ or man in women’s clothes, we show who we are here. It’s all worn on our sleeves. We’re identifiable and can be matched up with the human behind the keyboard. This is often why someone comes on as an alt and you immediately know who it is, simply because of the avatar personality.
Personality traits, the characteristics of that person bleed through the net – so we’re never as anonymous as we may want to think. Those who cling helplessly to their anonymity may have to get used to the fact that even though they’re trying to hide their true identity – there is no hiding place in virtual worlds – we give ourselves away all too easily.
What I keep going on about is treating each other with respect. Many people who use virtual worlds have come across ‘griefers’ or people trying to do harm at a psychological level.
Again, I plead for mutual respect for each individual avatar – because behind every avatar there is a vulnerable easily hurt human, and like everything else in virtual worlds emotions are amplified fivefold – what you do to someone there is five times better / worse than in the real world because people are more vulnerable as they haven’t typically put up their defences that are normally in place when dealing with others face to face.
An Avatar personality isn’t always right first time – so keep on trying guys. I’m sure you’ll get there in the end.
For me, the best way I deal with trust issues is to ask people to meet in the real world, or at least talk with them on the phone. That way I try to get a real perspective of who they actually are, without the mask of the avatar. I know that people who know me will be saying “you don’t always get it right” – but I don’t always get it right in my daily life either.
Finally, I have to add that I have met some delightful people and made some great friends this way. Thanks to everyone who has made my Second Life special.