Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't Panic! Avatars do not carry the Plague, Cooties or even the Swine Flu.

This is the Profile Pic I dared to use

I touched briefly yesterday on Google + and its apparent policy which, in line with Facebook, disallows avatars from creating accounts.  Well it doesn't really because many of us have, but it seems we're doing something bad and must expect that a guillotine will descend at some point and cut us off from many of our Google tools.  

If I read the policy correctly, everything now associated with my Google +  spawned profile would be out of my reach should my profile be suspended.  I'm still trying to understand which components that would be - it should become clear on the day my attempt to infiltrate a different class of society is detected and I am punished.

In the meantime, while I await my inevitable fate, I've been pondering the reasons why avatars would not be wanted on some social networks.  If it's just because of the giant corporations wanting to sell our information to advertisers well, they should really take a look at the amount of money we spend and get a grip.  In addition, word of mouth is a very powerful selling tool and avatars love to share their latest finds and broadcast product information.  This can't be the reason we're not wanted.  Marketers are smarter than that I hope.

I could have used this one I guess

My mental exertions have resulted in only one possible conclusion.  I could certainly be wrong but this is where I've arrived so far.  I think Google and Facebook try to ban avatars because the general populace is afraid of us.  After all, the one thing scarier than upgrading your operating system is the possibility that somebody on your social network is lying to you.  So I'd like to address that issue and the remainder of this post is addressed to you, the avatar-fearing social networker.

I've seen comments over the years that avatars are "pretending" and that we "aren't real" and, therefore, can't be trusted.  For reasons I'll explain further on these concerns are moot but for now let's address them and I'll do so individually.

The one thing avatars are not doing on social networks is "pretending".  We are quite open and honest about being avatars.  Our profile pics show you a representation of our inworld identities and our locations and descriptions relate to the metaverse and our activities therein.  We aren't 49 year old women pretending to be 16 year old boys to bully 13 year old girls.  We aren't sex offenders pretending to be contemporaries to groom young victims.  We aren't stealing identities by pretending to be somebody else.  Our avatars have friends and colleagues and work histories and established identities in the metaverse and by being up front and honest about that there is no pretense involved.

OK I admit this one is scary

As for not being real ...... I have some news for you.  It might be difficult to read so I'd like you to prepare yourself.  The fact is that the internet is not real life.  Take your time dealing with this revelation.  Get yourself a glass of water, maybe pace for a while or do some breathing exercises. This is something you must face.  The internet is a wonderful tool which, in addition to other things not relevant at the moment,  removes the barriers of distance, language, ability and even on occasion time to facilitate interaction with other people and information.  But it is not real life. 

On the internet my avatar is just as real as you are.  Along with you and everybody else on the social network scene, she chooses what information she will share with others.  She has acquired a history of interactions with others using technology.  She has a sense of humour and ethics and her personality has emerged as a natural consequence of her activities on the net.  Everybody around you that you have met solely through online interactions is projecting a persona.  They hide or embellish or deceive at will. 

One thing that avatars learn very quickly is that they are forced to deal with people without preconceptions based on gender, race, age or even culture.  Avatars learn that trust must be earned and you must learn the same.  Even if the photo is of a girl or boy much like you and their name is John or Jane Smith it is not real life.  Don't assume they are telling you the truth.  At least avatars are honest about their identity as an avatar.

and this one might be a little "out there"

I mentioned earlier that the concerns about avatars are moot and they are.  So here it is - the real reason not to care about avatars.  We aren't interested in you.  The truth is that you really have nothing to fear from small enclaves of self admitted avatars within the giant social networks containing hundreds of millions of people.  We socialize online with other avatars.  With very rare exceptions usually having to do with mutual interests in certain topics, we don't interact with people who don't share our preoccupation with virtual worlds.  In fact we're quite insular and don't want to talk to you.

So to you fine folks who are terrified of avatars on your social networks.  Do not fear.  There is no possibility of contagion or contamination.  The gene pool will not be corrupted.  Your children will not be born with fur or blue horns or fairy wings.  You are quite safe from us.  Better you should worry about that person pretending to be "real".

Bird Flu is just a vicious rumour, really!


Lalo Telling said...

Brilliant, as usual :)

Honour McMillan said...

/me blushes Thank you!

~Diana said...

Fabulous!! I haven't known you long, but you are by far more "real" than a lot of "fleshies" I know.

Honour McMillan said...

@Diana LOL *hugs*

Cisop Sixpence said...

Fabulous! You've said what I've wanted to say, but you did it much better than I could have dreamed. Thank you!

Honour McMillan said...

@Cisop - wow, thank you!

Nissa Nightfire said...

well said!

Honour McMillan said...

@Nissa Thank you!

Ceorl said...

Well said. The enemy is fear.

Honour McMillan said...

@Ceorl Thank you :)

Miso Susanowa said...

"Everybody around you that you have met solely through online interactions is projecting a persona. They hide or embellish or deceive at will. "

You DO know that this is exactly what happens in RL also? Think for 5 minutes; the examples will engulf you.

There's nothing stopping people from LYING IN REAL LIFE AND THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME. "No, I'm not married." "Yes, I have a job." "No, I don't live with my parents." "Yeah, I really like 18-century poets." "I don't eat junk food."

etc etc etc.

this whole debate is manufatured for the convenience of marketeers treating me like cattle and the govt, who is legally blocked from collecting the same data about you but is not blocked from being merely a customer who buys that data.

Honour McMillan said...

@Miso *grin* I do agree people lie in real life - although it's harder for a 49 year old woman to pretend to be a 16 year old boy. Not impossible but hard. :)

It still makes no sense to me that Google or anybody else can sell my data attached to my name to whoever wants to pay for it.

It's no wonder so many people are less attached to their privacy than I am.

Lacewing said...

"I've been pondering the reasons why avatars would not be wanted on some social networks"
In that sentence hangs the stupidity of FaceGoo's attitude - if we are on a social network at all it's in avatar form surely!
Isn't an avatar an online representation of ourselves whether it's by Facebook poke, Tweet or activating your hugger HUD?

And I love the picture

Honour McMillan said...

@Lacewing Yep :) and Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Well said :)

Honour McMillan said...

@Shiloh thank you! :)

Marie Ravencrow said...

First of all, I disagree with your premise that "the Internet is not Real Life." That shows a fundamental disconnect between how one projects themselves in the concrete universe, and how they do in the metaverse.

The Internet, rather, is a part of Real Life. We use it to communicate with very real people.

Secondly, an avatar is also real in that it represent one or more facets of your imagination and personality. You cannot completely divorce yourself from your own creation.

IMO Facebook and Google+ do not want avatars precisely because they are using the network to harvest data they can then sell. If they harvest the data on an avatar, it's not "real" data.


Honour McMillan said...

@Marie I was hoping to avoid the immersion vs augmentation debate because what I think I'm trying to say was said better in an earlier comment ... we're all really avatars on the internet.

As for my avatar being the "real" me well of course it is. I like to think it's the best parts of me though - I manage to hide my own worst faults or at least I try to. :) I certainly identify strongly with her and don't consider her a fictional construct.

There is fear out there and I've seen it/heard it. I just think it's misplaced.

And yes I believe that companies like FB and Google see us and our data as a commodity - this makes me furious. The more so because I am part of a generation that took it's privacy for granted and still clings to it with stubborn zeal.

sororNishi said...

Excellent post, very well said. The fear is interesting.

Honour McMillan said...

@Soror Thank you :)

Miso Susanowa said...

revisiting again for the excellent (and funny!) read.

I still don't understand why all the data about Miso is not enough to target Miso with ads- I see with the same eyeballs and am obviously interested in the same stuff... I buy just as much or little as Miso does...