On the internet, identity is an obsession. Because we are primarily only acquainted with one another through words, there is an opportunity (and, perhaps, a tendency) to mislead others about ourselves. Our facebook pictures are from the most flattering angles; our political and religious tendencies more firm. Knowing this about ourselves, we tend to also be suspicious of others. Praise and sarcasm are easily distinguished in real life; online you never really know. Therefore, we try to establish a context for what is written online by establishing a relationship with other participants or, failing that, by trying to discern where they are coming from. Are they Libertarian, Progressive, Indie Rock, Country Strong, Molly Mormon, or Andy Anti? Establishing these identities can allow us to create the body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal aspects of language that are absent in online communication, allowing us to create a context for interpreting comments.
This is dangerous. [Read more...]