'We Are Anonymous': Social Engineering, Internet Life, and You

Alright, so I just finished 'We Are Anonymous' by Parmy Olson, and while the events in the book shouldn't be as relevant anymore (seriously, do you know better than to use the same password for your email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever? Why the fuck not?) it's a very interesting exploration into the notion of Internet identities and, for me, being more of a person online than in reality.*

*Note: about ten minutes after I typed that, I went to BBC and saw an image from today in pictures where an Egyptian protester was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Well then.

I'm not going to rehash what I said in my <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/477791890">Goodreads review</a> (at least I'll try not to, and that was more a standard review anyway), but the most intriguing dynamic to me in this book is how Olson discusses the creation of an online identity.

For me, tying myself to who I am online is ludicrous. If you called me 'the real mleh' or 'darkenergy' or one of the ten other aliases I've used online, I wouldn't even notice (hell, the only reason I go by those online is because my real name is a thing of great horror and ugh). But this book goes into detail about people who not only spend more time interacting with people they've never met face-to-face, but who also spend more time constructing their online identity, etc, than they do having, well, real world jobs.

And it raises the interesting conundrum: if you can have these independent identities, which one matters? If I'm a fat 50 year old man scratching my balls while eating pizza, but online I'm a twenty-year old chick from LA, and I spend most of my time online being this girl I'm not, which one matters more? What do you say to someone who doesn't like who they are and is given this whole world where they can do anything they want?

I lied about my age online for years, half from paranoia about creepers (I was starting to use the Internet more back when pedostalking all over MySpace) and half just because I never thought my age was a very good reflection of me. A bunch of years later, I've come to the conclusion that age is rarely a good reflection of anyone, and at most offers hints to appearance and cultural background. Whatever.

Anyway, I want to discuss this whole online-offline identity thing. Because this is the first time where we've had a space where people can so blatantly become something they will never be in reality, and what is that doing?

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