“There’s a guy in the forums who claims that he can beat up Superman AND anyone’s dad!” was the buzz in a popular discussion forum not a long time ago. The profile of PowerHouse121, the alleged superhuman who wrote the forum post, displayed a picture of an immensely strong male-figure with a perfectly tanned and oiled body and searing lasers coming out of his eyes. “GASP!” exclaimed the public as they saw the image. The grapevines shook as the legend spread like wildfire. At no point did anyone choose to disbelieve the remark on the forum. They saw the picture, and experts said it wasn’t Photoshopped or modified in any way. And who would doubt experts? Mystery ManIn a dark second-floor room in a colourless house in an equally colourless neighbourhood the hum and click of a computer filled the space with a restless ambience. Between the heaps of pizza boxes and empty soda cans, PowerHouse121 giggled and snorted. “The fools!” he laughed in a maniac cackle, “THE FOOLS!” He adjusted his glasses and proceeded to squeeze a new pimple that had appeared late last night, probably due to the high tension and emotion in his latest World of Warcraft campaign.

By now, dear reader, I hope you’ve understood that PowerHouse121 wasn’t actually the titan from Greek legends like everyone thought. And the story didn’t actually happen, since – naturally – no one could beat up dad. However, the concept of living multiple lives isn’t something out of a psychiatrist’s handbook anymore, but rather an everyday matter thanks to the Internet and the anonymity it provides.

The Internet is an open venue for people to make up for any disadvantages they might have in actual social intercourse. If you are shy, reserved or just uncomfortable in social situations involving real human contact, you’ll find it easy to be just the opposite in the text and forum -based social channels of the web. Heck, you can even change your gender on the fly or make up a family and a huge fortune. Who can doubt you? They can’t read your body language to see if you’re lying and they probably don’t have access to your bank account, neighbours, school or place of work to verify if what you’re saying is true.

How devilishly simple! You can finally be all you ever wanted to be. Forget about the hardships of trying to “cope” or “manage” in your ordinary life. Now you can get your three master’s degrees in just a few clicks of the mouse. Have you ever played real golf? No? Well now you have, and you’re the guy who taught Tiger Woods everything about the game.

The trick is, naturally, to be consistent. If you change your story, your lie will become transparent and your castle in the clouds will soon crumble to dust. And don’t start big. Don’t introduce yourself as “the second richest man in Europe” or “inventor of the bottle cap”. Start by creating your character: Is s/he funny and extrovert or dark and mysterious? Is s/he cynical or easy-going? You can even change your gender, how fun is that!

Living the Internet dream does sound good. It’s like finding the New World without all the hassle with the natives. But does it pay off? Everyone knows that everyone lies on the Internet. So is it just a charade with its own social laws? “I know you lie, and I know you know that I lie, but it’s ok” is the general consensus. Some people are so vulgarly artificial that they’ll find it hard to fit in even in the most forgiving web communities. But with the majority of people we recognise the hoax but we let it be. As long as we don’t have to see them face-to-face and thus somehow consolidate our acquaintance, the difference between the Internet alias and the real person behind it becomes hazy and indistinct. And best of all: if you manage to screw up your second life by blowing up your cover, you can always return with a new alias and join in with the people who are laughing at your old self for being such a fake.

And sometimes the person becomes so immersed in his alter ego that he begins to believe in his newfound qualities so much that he’s SURE he’s climbed Mount Everest and OF COURSE he’s a stock millionaire. By this point you should see the red lights a-blinking and the warning horns a-honking. eLife and real life don't mix, friend! Don't mix your *hug*'s, :)'s and LOL's with your hugs, smiles and your laughs. If you can't remember whether you're a man or a woman, or whether you can beat up Superman or not, take a break from the computer and do some real socialising. Or at least eat some healthy food for God's sake.

The Internet is best used as a tool: information is always at hand. But for some people it’s the escapist dream. Be all you can’t be should be the slogan for so many Internet communities that lure people in with promises of mutual dishonesty. [tags]internet,alias[/tags]

Who Is Jack?

Horoscopes for September 24, 2007