Jitendra Gupta and Richard MacManus have an interested piece on Read/Write Web where they look at “throwaway identities” online. The core of the issue is how people create accounts or identities online, and then change them. Sometimes, this is intentional – such as using an email address for subscriptions, so you don’t get spam in your real email. Or experimenting by creating a MySpace profile, but only using the account for 10 minutes. Other times it is unintentional, such as losing a password.
This type of activity leaves the web littered with zombies. But I think the greater issue is the barrier that between “real” and “unreal” as we move more core business and social functions online.
I use my real name online, and among publishing and tech bloggers, that is not uncommon. For my wife’s blog, which deals with art and inspiration, she uses her real name as well. Of all of her online friends, which there are many, she is one of the only people doing so.
They give an example of IBM employees having virtual meetings, where there avatars can walk around the room to meet their colleagues. But the thing about Second Life is that you can’t use your real name – you must choose a last name from a list they give you.
The question for me is, at what point do we truly merge our real life and online identities so that we can operate seemlessly between the two? How can we build trusting communities with names like PixieMagic and Rkr15?