by Jaye Sonia
Due to the magic of technology (and a little bit of time travel on my end), you are currently reading this while I am in the States. What am I doing there? Well, I’m delving into con season and learning what’s coming to board, video, war, and tabletop gamers in 2013! Let’s call it research – a sacrifice I’m making for all of you – shall we? (That’s right, it’s research…. muhahahaha).
This, of course, isn’t what I’m going to talk about in this article. Instead, I’m going to talk about a concept I recently ran across in the book Fantasy Freaks & Gamer Geeks – an idea the author glanced over, but didn’t fully explore – the idea of our “digital selves.”
In a sense, what you’re reading right now is part of my digital self. This magazine will be loaded online and, once there, catalogued and read for as long as those servers remain (and they continue to host bazaar magazine). My voice, even if the most unfortunate of events transpires, will continue to echo on from the ether. Sure, the same could be said for all of the great writers and artists. But things have changed since they penned great works of literature or painted life-changing scenes. The Internet is far more expansive and, at times, seemingly random – at least as much as is connected. One can follow link after link, and like that, find this article (or any article). The art of old might be globally available, but all the greats are still limited to the museums or libraries that host them. Unless, of course, they’ve been given digital selves… second lives, if you will.
I’m tempted to wax philosophical for a moment (and quote The Matrix), but I want to keep things practical. So, let’s look at our digital selves.
Our generations, as well as future generations, will be the first that will need to, once we’re gone, put our digital selves to bed when the lights go out. It’s a little weird to think about, but it’s true. Without doubt, we have an army of online characters, accounts, memberships, and profiles that will continue to march onward – trapped in the electronic web – after we’re gone. We’re faced with provisions our grandparents never had to consider. The iGeneration, like Generation X, will need to consider additional elements when they form their last will and testaments.
But that isn’t all we need to consider. We all must consider the digital images others are building around us, as well. Our shopping profiles, what we “like” on Facebook, and the memes we pass on all speak volumes about us. I have little doubt that those economic shadows are being pooled for market research and, whether we like it or not, being researched to develop future trends. Those firms aren’t sitting down with us and asking what we want, either. They’re looking at our digital selves – what we share, buy, and like. I have many clones – Jaye’s Gaming Self, Jaye’s Shopping Self, Jaye’s Meme Self, and Jaye’s Facebook “liking” Self – and so on. Of course, I have no illusions about this. I know I’m being tracked, measured by what I consume. It’s not some dark conspiracy, either. It’s simple market analysis.
(The rogue, chaotic-neutral part of me wants to remind you that when you’re actively mindful of this, you can influence or upset such market trends with some creative “liking,” too. Shsss, don’t tell the people at Facebook.)
Obviously, this brings a final element into the equation, as well – the truly future geeks. Think about all of those people tagging their children, nephews, and nieces. Think about them, with their baby pictures and 3rd birthdays, all of it online, all before they’ve even learned to type. My nephew is on Facebook and doesn’t even have an account. His digital self is being built before he’s even had a chance to say, “Yeah, mom, put me online and show me off.” And while this isn’t malicious or even harmful, it says something about whom and what we’re becoming in the face of a complete, global network – that we’re growing in the electronic world as much as we are in the physical.
So, next time you log onto your Star Wars character or your Facebook page, think about that part of you. Think about that avatar, what it says about you, and what, at the end of the day, you want it to say about you.
As way of example, I’ll say this.
Unlike those of us living before the Internet; some of these profiles exist apart from us. Sure, we might control them, but what about when we’re not around? And what happens to all those characters when aging players pass on to other realms, eh? And more practically; what about those aspects of “us” that are built around us, but without our direct control? Do we have digital selves directly related to our credit scores?