Note: Last week I was asked to write this blog post and submit it to be workshopped by my peers. This piece is a reaction and analysis of itself. (Very meta). Know that I feel more comfortable now that you, my nameless audience, is reading this instead of my peers in the real world who have actual faces.
At this very moment, I sit here, typing, frustrated with the effort, research and time spent writing this first sentence. I imagine somewhere in the ether sits a digitized recycling bin surrounded by crumpled word documents. The light from my desk lamp is candle-like, casting a vague silhouette on the wall of my stooped body shaking in anxiety. It is almost 1:00am and all the writing I have done tonight proves to be futile as shown by this short paragraph, which provides little to no direction of the rest of the article.
Being so entrenched in Top Shelf Gaming, I forgot what it was like to write for a physical audience without having an online avatar to hide behind. With the pressure I feel, the act of writing has become synonymous with the act of performing. The thought of making eye contact with those reading this is frightening. Is it odd that I find more comfort in performing for the faceless millions than I do for two or three peers? I believe it is and I want to explore why. How has interacting with the internet altered my feelings towards criticism and perfection in the real world?
In elementary school we didn’t have computers for us to use. We wrote everything by hand. That meant the process of erasing was more of a hassle than a privilege. Erasing hinders the readability and neatness of a paper as it still left visible marks, implying that I either made a mistake or am ashamed of my creation. During that time, I was more focused and deliberate in my approach to writing since there was more pressure not to erase. Although I still aimed for perfection, the amount of resources to reach that level was far less common than today allowing myself more slack and less pressure to perform. The notion that I could only go as far as physical reality could take me made perfection seem unreachable thus giving its looming presence much less weight on my work.
However, the terrain has shifted and once we enter the digital realm our minds are transported into a different place. With the upgrade in technology my laptop becomes like pen and paper. This change is drastic enough to notice the difference between my grade school self and my Top Shelf Gaming writer mentality. I will discuss the concept of privacy through concealment and decoration between the digital and physical world.
Privacy is the amount of control one has over their information, whether that would be what content is visible, how visible the content is or who is granted access to content.
Since entering the digital world and writing for Top Shelf Gaming, I have not only had the ability to erase what I write, but also the ability to hide the fact that I did. The notion that I can delete what I want in secret changes my approach to writing. I can let my subconscious write for me, since I know I can go back anytime and remove anything I deem unimportant, like I have at least 15 times writing this paragraph.
The introduction of this technology proves to be an upgrade in efficiency, but can also be a gateway to dependency. The ability to remove the imperfect that puts pressure on my writing to be perfect. I ask myself, as I write this piece, “why should I let myself publicize low quality work when I have the ability to destroy it without any trace?” Why should I publicize anything I do not like about myself in general?
On the internet we have the power to erase almost everything. Once we log on to Facebook or that forum comparing the Xbox One to the PS4, it is like we are handed a replica of the ring of Gyges. We have the choice to either leave it be or turn its jewel to our palm. More often than not, we choose the latter, hiding our insecurities, leaving only the best person or most informed gamer to be seen. On the internet, there are no signs of editing the first time we post a comment. If there were, there would be less flame wars discussing the Xbox One and PS4 in comment sections and forums (Where’s the Wii U love?).
These capabilities that are available to me made me dependent and less confident in my ability to perform in a world where my critics can physically grab my paper and tell me that I am wrong.
Similar to the ring, we are also given masks, where in tandem with hiding our faults, we also decorate and wear our strengths. We create avatars or our digital selves to deliberately manufacture and highlight what we want. With the mask, we can put on any face and personality that we want without fear of being caught. Think of the online trolls on Xbox Live who, after killing you, scream through your speakers as they teabag your face. We can only assume that they do not act like this in real life. However, once they put Master Chief’s helmet over their face they become who they want to be. We can use masks to appear more professional, funny or outgoing, but in the end we use them to exaggerate truth, and do so consciously.
The digital world alters the climate of reality as well as our inclination to be interesting, entertaining and, essentially, perfect in the real world. Just as technology succumbs to remediation, so do our mentalities. The pressure to be flawless in the physical world wasn’t as daunting in the past. However, the increase of resources, and exaggeration in the digital realm conditions us to be fearless behind the keyboard. But, what happens when the screens are lifted and you have to face that troll you CAPSLOCKED in the comment section of that Nintendo video? What happens when your alternate self is no longer there to help you take the blows of criticism? That is how I feel about watching those around me read my work and that is why I prefer you all to read this instead. You can still comment and criticize this piece here online. I’ll just be less hurt knowing that we’re all wearing masks.
As millennials we have the privilege of simultaneously traversing through both the physical and digital world. I feel as if we are in a continuous cycle between maintaining who we want to be on the internet and living those artificial truths in real life. The time we allot for technology and the time we spend off-screen seem to coincide as if we live in a world that sits between the two. Self-documentation, or any interaction in my opinion, on the internet is made for the present time to be critiqued as soon as possible. Unlike physical journals where we tuck them away until later, the digital world encourages the immediate posting of video game news or “Let’s Play” videos with like bars and up votes. Combine these shallow forms of criticism with the dependency on rings and masks, and you have a writer who is up at 2:30am terrified of his own digital shadow and conflicted on whether or not to turn this in.
Tell me how wrong in the comment section below. Thank you!