Avatars and alter egos

I’ve been using the Internet as a tool for a long time. My first connections were with a 300-baud telephone modem that you literally placed the telephone handset into a cradle on the modem. It was so slow that I would download my emails, disconnect and write my replies then reconnect to upload my responses. Email was all we did in those days. I participated in an email group that focused on church concerns and theology. In those days we all used pseudonyms for email addresses. It reminded me of the handles we used in CB radio conversations. I remember thinking at the time that it would make a lot more sense to use our real names. There were several people in the email group whose identities I knew and none of us posted anything in our messages that we would have minded being associated with our names.

It seems that from the very beginning the Internet encouraged people to use their imaginations to create a kind of alter ego - the personality on the Internet was somehow different and distinct from the person you would meet face-to-face. I have resisted this notion. There is nothing appealing to me about having a kind of split personality. I don’t need to have another identity to maintain. One is enough for me.

While my friends were really developing Facebook profiles and using free blog sites, I was developing this web presence. I have registered the domain names for RevTedH and maintain them as my official we presence. The only reason I don’t use my full name, Ted Huffman, is that it was already registered to another Internet user. If you go to tedhuffman.com, you can find out about a director who has the same name as I. We both have a taste for opera. I didn’t study at Yale.

It seems, however, that there are a lot of people who are intentionally creating and maintaining different personalities on the Internet. They don’t seem to mind inconsistencies and don’t mind projecting an image that is different from what is known to the people with whom they live and work. Others are working to project their real personality, but putting a lot of personal data out on Facebook and other sites where their data is available to be used and abused by advertisers, political operatives and others.

I’m not sure what is right or wrong in terms of an Internet presence, but I’ve tried to follow similar patterns to those by which I live the rest of my life. My web site is probably an incomplete picture, but I think that what is here is accurate. There are, however, stories that I don’t tell. Given that this site contains over 3,000 personal essays, there is a lot of data up here. But it is going to take you a lot of reading to find the details about my life. Some things are pretty obvious, like the events of my educational history, my publications, employment history and other details that are on my CV page. You can find out the names of my children and grandchildren quite easily. You can even find the picture of my grandchildren that I’ve chosen as the header for this year’s journal. You’d have to dig deeper and read quite a few essays to find the towns where my children and grandchildren live, but that information has also been revealed.

Just like my professional life, there are a few details that are not relevant and not revealed. However, it has been my intention, both in my life as a pastor and in my Internet presence to present myself as I am.

As a result, I don’t really understand people who work so hard to maintain different personalities and presences on the Internet. I know people who have false Facebook accounts with made-up names, made-up personalities and the like. I don’t know the appeal of such fiction, but it must be there. There are people who put a lot of effort into creating avatars that roam the internet and somehow enable them to live vicariously. It just isn’t my thing.

So it will come as no surprise that i’m not involved in games. I did do the games of Luminosity for several years, but that has fallen by the wayside these days as I pursue different ways to fill my time. I like puzzles and some games, but my time for such is limited. I’ve never played Pokemon GO. I don’t even know how the game works. I’ve looked at the Pokemon cards that our grandson has collected, so I know a little bit about some of the characters and have a sense of the general appearance of the creatures. I have no understanding of whaat is going on when multiple vehicles pack the fire lane on the east end of our building, backing up into the parking lot and blocking the path to my usual parking place. I’ve been told that playing Pokemon GO is a good way to get out and get exercise, but these people don’t seem to be interested in getting out of their cars. We have a big parking lot, but they don’t want to leave their cars in the marked places. Last week there was a car parked on the grass because the fire lane was filled with other cars.

I’ve been told that there is a Pokemon GO gym near the base of our cross. I’ve made an official appeal through the game’s web site to have the feature removed from the game and I’m hopeful that they will find some other place to attract the players. It seems that game play does nothing to engender respect for the church, its services, its symbols or even common politeness.

I don’t know if players imagine themselves to be someone else while playing the game. On player told me he isn’t normally rude and wouldn’t normally park his car in someone else’s place, but he got caught up in the game and did some things that he regrets. At least he was willing to talk to me about the game.

In the meantime, I’m sure that there are plenty of innocent people who just play for fun and don’t disrupt others’ lives.

I don’t understand. I don’t need a personality that does things that my other personality disapproves. I’m unlikely to take up playing the game. I’m just me. That seems to be enough for now.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!