In a chat room, you can pretend to be fighter, philosopher and music buff at the same time
TOPIC: Online identity vs offline identity
When I log on to Omegle for a random chat, for those 19 minutes, I am god. In the last 19 minutes I’ve been a bored borderline genius, a heavy metal virtuoso, a Tarantino-esque street-fighter, an expert on particle physics, an otaku, a guy in his mid-20s, a literature student and a few other colourful parts that I can’t seem to remember at this moment. That’s perhaps because it is 3 in the morning and I’m rather sleep-deprived. From the above roles mentioned, however, you’ll be able to gather an inherent contradiction – one person could not possibly be all those at the same time. Factor in my age – all of 20 years (I swear on Pinocchio’s grave - if there ever was one) and you could not but laugh at the ludicrous amount of qualities and skills I have piled upon myself. They’re not, however, all lies.
In fact, I really am a literature student for nearly all my waking hours. As am I an otaku. The others – hmm, maybe? To a lay person with minimal or even a fair amount of knowledge of heavy metal, I can pass off as an expert. I know enough of the best bands, the top songs, and the genre itself but if Steve Harris were to throw questions at me, I’d probably pee my pants. I’ve picked fights, some of which have been on the streets but if I paint with words a picture that presents to you a gun-slinging girl in Lara Croft attire then I’m using subtle deception to the best of my abilities. And while particle physics interests me enough to read about it in my free times, Feynman wouldn’t throw me a bone. And he needn’t – because I’m not claiming any of these vibrant roles on a platform. Or even in person.The last 19 minutes have been listlessly spent on Omegle (a free online chat website).
The internet, the World Wide Web - if you will. Kierkegaard’s nightmare and nemesis; the love child of Scylla and Charybdis. At the end of this particularly bad day (crappy assignment and bouts of jealousy directed at a 7 hand removed acquaintance whose manuscript just got accepted by HarperCollins) I had come home to stare at the mirror. To feel bottomless angst creep in and turn into self-loathing at the mundanely average face that stared back. And what do you do then, with all the pent up frustration and nothing to direct it at without incurring damage or wrath? You turn to Kierkegaard’s nemesis.
When I log on to Omegle for a random chat, for those 19 minutes, I am god. I am like the painter with complete reign over his canvas, like the writer who can make or break his character. I am the creator in the spotlight, flaunting the created; both are me. They are not essentially lies – the ones I throw out at the unsuspecting (really though?) souls. I’m not claiming to be an astronaut in NASA – I’m not claiming to be things I am not. What I am doing is painting a picture of me that incorporates everything I would have been but for a lack of time, energy and focus. Everything I am, I put out there in an exaggerated form. At the end of a day when the sum total of all that I am failed to make an impact on anyone (least of all myself), bits of me saturated and presented to a stranger I would, in all likelihood, never meet again, are the few minutes of gloating glory I can afford.
“Online identities” for Kierkegaard, spelt doom. It was an extension of coffee houses, a place bereft of any form of responsibility. Where people could say and be whatever they desired to be with no one to double check or hold them to their words. For most of us today, it isn’t doom. A palace of illusions maybe; an escapist world where reality does not weigh down on you. In a world where exposure has led us to find more wondrous things than we can ever hope to be, the Jack of all trades finds himself manifested in every soul. And whenever we can, we dress the Jack up as a Master – in the hopes that someday, we’d be all that we wish we’d been.
When the idea of absolute reality is a joke – perception defines all. And I wonder at times: if I’m intelligent enough to pass of as a genius, am I not then truly a genius?
Know the Writer
Name: Ateendriya, 20
Occupation: Student of literature
What made you want to write for us? Mothers can be persistent. The Brunch issue with the “call for entries” page finally made me turn my attention to it
A quirk you have? An unabashed stationery/book fetish
The best thing about Brunch is? Vir Sanghvi’s Rude Food and Rajiv Makhni’s gadgets column
Your favourite cover story in Brunch: Battle of the Brews I am painting a picture that incorporates everything I would have been
From HT Brunch, February 3
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch