More on disclosure of identity

I forgot to say something important about disclosure of identity.

Schwartz and Ward’s list of identity-contributing attributes, which, according to my hypothesis, is also the list of details that opaque bidents tend to keep hidden from others in Second Life, also correspond to those characterstics on which people have historically been segregated. It makes sense, yes, that those attributes that outline who we are, those attributes that give us our identity, also serve to establish the “in” and “out” of elites and cliques. Look at the list again: it’s easy to find recent past (and current) cases of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, first language, gender, religion, social/economic status and sexual, cultural and political preferences.

What is this to do with SL? Well, in addition to the already mentioned reason that bidents try to avoid disclosing information that would cause their two identities to clash with each other, I now hypothesise that an additional reason for bidents to stay opaque is that they try to avoid being prejudged; prejudice is easy to minimise if we hold those details that are often used as a basis for discrimination. Note that this applies to any kind of opaques, not to bidents only.

In summary: by being opaque, SL residents minimise the risk of being the target of prejudice from other residents, thus avoiding potentially unfair discrimination.

I will give you an example. Some time ago I met somebody in SL who turned to be an opaque bident. Let’s call her Susan. This lady would systematically hold her real life gender, age, ethnicity, nationality and other details. After a few weeks, she decided to disclose some real life information to me because of some reasons that I will spare you. She bitterly admitted to be a low-income Canadian 67-year old white female. She decided to withhold that information from almost everybody in SL and create an interposed identity with very different attributes (wealthier, younger) because she believed that people would judge her negatively as an “old scruffy grandma” had she revealed her real life identity.

Susan continues to be an opaque. She looks twenty-something and wears expensive dresses.

P.S. Thanks, Susan, for letting me use your anonymised story here.


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