Online Worlds As Playground for Identity Building. What Is Virtual, What Real?
Following the theory of the philosopher Robert Pfaller an avatar takes over in the virtual setting and the user delegates emotions and even the enjoyment and pleasure to the figure created by the user, often representing certain facets of his/her identity. The representation in the internet – in virtual worlds as well as in social networks – on the other hand enables its “creator” to live out interests, wishes, dreams or needs that cannot be acted out in the offline world due to cultural, economic, social or moral reasons.
Especially in cases where moral control prevents the acting out of feelings the virtual setting might become the space for the “real” self and reality is the room for creating the virtual adapted self.
Research conducted online in subcultures and with online gamers shows this online identity construction as escapist behaviour to flee the suppression but as opportunity to try out new things first virtually.