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Why it’s healthy to take a break from your online persona (2016) (theguardian.com)
50 points by Tomte 109 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments



Let my online persona take the criticism? Yes. My offline persona too. Alan Watts used to point out that even the 'real' persona is only a mask (the word coming from the ancient greek πρόσωπον which originally referred to a theatrical mask).

>the “online disinhibition effect” is what enables your mild-mannered neighbour to become a hate-spewing bigot on social media

It's complicated. The fear of enemies keeps our 'ego persona' firmly in charge like a wartime leader. Because we identify with this persona we therefore unconsciously seek out people to hate in order to feel safe. Because open hatred isn't socially acceptable we designate the target group a 'hate group'. It's then OK to hate them because they're the real haters! And so these opposing groups create and sustain one another, making the participants feel safe and all the while making the world decidedly less safe.


I don't understand the part about having someone to hate making people feel safe. What's the mechanism there?


Imagine you're a boxer and you get into fights all the time, outside as well as inside the ring. You only feel safe with your fists up, but you can't control your arms directly. They only go up when you're facing an opponent. Therefore you need to have an opponent at all times.

This is a metaphor, because real boxers obviously do control their arms.

But substitute certain emotions (e.g. anger, fear) for the arms, emotions with which one is strongly identified, the loss of which causes a greater fear (of disappearing, of death).


When the world around us appears to be that way for good reason (and not because of happenstance), we feel secure and validated.


See, the trick is to make your persona the 'you' that you want to be. For better and worse.

Best case scenario: you become more like the 'you' that you wanted to be. Worst case scenario: your online persona is linked to the 'real you', and you can now be measured by your own ideals!

I've often wondered what would happen if my 'online persona' were linked to my real identity. It would be extremely embarrassing: I've been open about things I'd never mention in the 'real world'. I've said things that I regret, especially in my younger years. And perhaps at times I've pretended to be something that I'm not.

While I would absolutely hate being 'doxxed', if it were to happen I think the consequences would be good and educational regardless, so I'm kind of okay and safe just being this 'better me' online.


After selling my company, I was doxxed. I'd given away enough information that someone was even able to get my tax filings.

Fortunately, I'm not very controversial but people still behaved like a pack of animals. I got so much delivery pizza that I eventually notified the area services and had them no longer accept orders in my name.

I'd move soon after, but I got the damnedest of complaints. I had donated a ton, but not to the causes people liked. In some cases, I was told I'd donated too much. Things like that.

Meh... It wasn't that bad, for me. I was no longer in a position where my livelihood was at risk. My kids escaped unscathed, but appreciated all the pizza. And yeah, I paid for every last one of those pizzas. It really wasn't the company's fault.

I do kinda wish they'd have ordered other types of food. Pizza got boring and we could only give so many away to neighbors. I'd bring what the neighbors didn't want to the homeless shelter.

So many pizzas...

But, that was the worst of it. I could see it being much worse. I was pretty much immune to harm.


>While I would absolutely hate being 'doxxed', if it were to happen I think the consequences would be good and educational regardless, so I'm kind of okay and safe just being this 'better me' online.

I am happy you apparently hold views that large swathes of society agree with. You are lucky, dare I say privileged, that you are fairly certain that nothing you have said would provoke a violent response from somebody. I fear that this is not the case for most people.


While I don't get the impression that you're actually happy, and while you're not completely correct in your assumptions, you do make a fair point.


I actually am happy for you that you feel that way.

Unfortunately, politics being what it is in the US right now, I can't be certain that my opinions would survive such scrutiny. It's part of why I don't have social media accounts other than LinkedIn (which is just used for job hunting). I don't want to accidentally say something so controversial that somebody will be motivated to take the time to dox me. So why bother sharing anything on the net?


>I've said things that I regret, especially in my younger years.

I was both blessed and cursed to have the internet be mainstream while I was going through puberty.

Maybe I seem weird for not being on Facebook, but Myspace was a humbling enough experience, thank you.


> "This strikes me as a splendidly healthy way to approach life online: let your online persona take the criticism, while you get on with living."

If only it were that simple. It wasn't my "online persona" that lost friends due to publicly showing support for Trump online during the election cycle, it was me. It was real and it hurt.


Every Trump supporter I distanced myself from got distanced for other things, not because they supported Trump. It was the cruel comments (usually in meme form) about me and people I care about that did it most of the time. They revealed themselves to be very different kinds of people than I thought they were.

Supporting someone who's either a very terrible person or panders to those who are raises a lot of questions, but that's not enough on its own. Plenty of good people fool themselves into believing a person like Trump doesn't really mean all the awful things they say and do, and that can be forgiven.

Are you sure it was because you supported Trump, and not because of things you said?


Honestly it's people like you who equate Trump supports with terrible people (or who equate Hillary supporters with terrible people) that are the problem. It's a spectrum of belief. Yeah there are white supremisitcs who like Trump, just like there were black militants who supported Obama. That said, what I believe it comes down to is people don't like to be challenged in their core beliefs. When they are, it engenders the spirit of contention, and some people get so offended by this (because they're not use to it) they'd rather shut their ears and shut out the source. In San Francisco this is especially true as the city is one giant echo chamber of liberal progressiveness, which is where I live as well as most of my "friends" who couldn't handle my opinions (I had kept my mouth shut about my political beliefs for years, so they got to know me devoid of that). Shows you what kind of "friends" they are (were).


>> Honestly it's people like you who equate Trump supports with terrible people (or who equate Hillary supporters with terrible people) that are the problem.

I very plainly said I don't do this (first sentence). The rest of your post is a rant based on you missing that, so I'm going to ignore it.

There are many Trump supporters who are more critical of him than I am, and I'm fine with those people. I don't really understand them, but they seem to get that a lot of his positions and comments are bad.


I don't have an online persona. It's just me, typing things to no one in particular, and sometimes people respond. If it veers even a little into toxic, I walk away.

I found managing my online "brand" tiring and exploitative. So I killed it.


More than once, I’ve caught myself thinking I ought to weigh in about a major news event, as if Twitter were waiting on tenterhooks for my views.

Maybe the thing we need to take a break from is being reactive like this. Often, reacting to negative stuff just entrenches it. No need to let the tail wag the dog.

If you want to post about being a creationist or whatever, it is possible to do that without it becoming drama. It depends a lot on how, where and why you do it. This person apparently knew it would be a shit show and did it anyway. If it mattered to them, they probably could have handled it differently. Though doing things diplomatically is extra effort and a lot of people don't really want to bother.


This is a great thing to do from time to time. I occasionally log out of apps and even delete them from my phone just to take a break. No need for anyone to like my tweets or heart my photos.


Something strikes me as odd. The article and all the comments here give me the impression that people have only one online persona.

Surely there must be a substantial number of people who have more than one because they feel a need to express themselves in ways that their mainstream friends, acquaintances, and family would not approve of.


Too many people have online personas that are simply terrible, opinionated loudmouths.

It's a shame, really. It's led to today's bifurcated society.


Why do you think today's society is any different from yesterday's in that regard?


some people can take a break

but you become the mask, eventually.


“You must discover whose face lies behind this mask, but you must never know my face. Is that quite clear?”

— V




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