Where are the Vishnu Cookies?

Meant to post this thought last week after we spent a lot of class talking about facebook. One thing we talked about was the difficulty of labeling identity constructs. What do we call that part of someone that is their facebook profile/blog personality/ virtual body? These identity constructs are derived from but not the same as the person; they take on their own qualities. I'm perfectly willing to accept such a divorce between projected self and actual self also occurs in life experienced between people in the physical world, inner solitary life experienced w/in the mind, and any other medium in which we construct our identity (p.e. how the "I" in diary writing is different from the "I" in iming). I'm also not entirely closed off to the notion that there perhaps there is no authentic self and that only constructions exist. I'm reminded of one of Almodóvar's transexuals who says "The more you become like what you have dreamed for yourself, the more authentic you are."

But authenticity aside, my problem lies w/ the naming. We haven't grown a sufficient vocabulary for online embodiments. "Sam's Facebook profile" doesn't cut it. I've always been disatisfied with "avatar" as well. It so happened that when I was first asked to supply an avatar for my Yahoo fantasy football account in middle school (about 10 years ago) we were studying world religions. Avatar has too strong a hindu meaning that it doesn't carry over well to dinky little icon, let alone our virtual embodiments/online selves/digital auto-projections or whatever the.

One interesting thing going on is the way people's names spill into blogs. Markos = DailyKos, Kaus = Kausfiles, etc. but this happens all the time. One of my best friends at Pomona started a blog where the name of the blog is his last name followed by "family". p.e. _____family, like baldwinfamily. His blog persona posts and responds to comments in a voice that is clearly derived from, but not the same as, the guy who I hang out with all the time. The interesting that that has happened is that his readership, quite organically, followed his lead and now we (there were about 25 regulars at its peak) all comment as some permutation involviing his last name p.e. #1____fan, or lukewarmfor____.

This kind of online version of the self needs a name. Any ideas?

I'm not sure there's a ready answer for that, since, like you mentioned, all mediums of communication are in a sense projected selves that also seem to carry with them different degrees of assumed standards of reliability in that projection. I tend to think that mediums consisting of mostly writing--diaries, journals, blogs--might project the truest "forms of self" over things like MySpace and Facebook, which allow you to select from pulldown choices to describe yourself. Wait... I just had a more cohesive thought... perhaps it's not media featuring merely a lot of writing, but media in which the writing is not directly intended to define the self. For instance, if I wanted to find out about someone's personality I didn't know very well (and proceeded to stalk them online) I would probably start with their facebook profile, but it would be a real find if they had a link to their blog or something because it takes a skilled writer (or at least intention) to keep your voice out of your writing. The thought process behind my statement about "writing not directly intended to define the self" was influenced by both Facebook's little "about me" box (which is directly intended to sum up the self in so many words, and thus is used for mostly cute little phrases and such) and my understanding of the original nature of personal diaries. I'm pretty sure the original use of diaries (which we study as biographical) was more to account for daily events than to reflect on personal feelings (or lists of crushes and other extreme heartbreaks, which I'm pretty sure was my sole use for diaries as a kid). I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe a "truer self" can be found as the voice underlying the communication of the content, not the content itself (like in "about me" sections). Although I am already starting to contradict myself in my head so I'm just going to stop here...