How do we know if someone’s being their real self on the internet? Do we go by the selfies they post, the facts they say about themselves, or the way they talk? Do we judge someone’s authenticity on what they stand for or how they interact with others? The truth is that because the web makes its users faceless, you will never know.
In his presentation, Identity 2.0, Dick Hardt explains that you can say anything you want about yourself and no matter how true those things could be, your identity will still be questioned on the internet. He explains that on the internet, there are fewer “trust cues” that indicate whether what someone is saying is to be considered trustworthy or not. On the internet, you can never truly prove who you are. I could tell you that my name is Brianne O’Leary, I’m a 19 year old student at Rowan University, and I love cats, but how would you know that I was being authentic? I could easily be a 40 year old man who wants nothing more than to make college students think I’m one of them so I can lure them into a secluded area and murder them.
This clearly presents a huge problem with the web today. There are those who are smart about what they believe on the internet and those who aren’t. Those who aren’t easily fall prey to online scams, predators, and catfishers. It’s been made pretty clear by some popular web scams that a lot of people seem to trust anything they read on the internet, like the famous email scam where a Nigerian Prince suddenly wants to give you, a stranger, his riches- for a fee of course. While not all scams are as obvious and stupid as that one, they still get people every day (like the infamous Craigslist Killer), just because the anonymity of the internet allows you to say you’re someone you’re not, and many people have no qualms with taking advantage of that.
What we should take away from this is not to immediately distrust anyone who’s on the internet. We just need to keep our guards up. Take the things people say about themselves with a grain of salt, for sure, and avoid falling for those who may be altering their identity in a negative way. The internet does a good job of stripping us of our identities. It takes everything that makes you who you are in real life and erases it in a sense, allowing you to claim to be anyone you want to be. When we enter the web, we all become no one, a ‘John Doe’ in a sense. The trouble is, we can never fully and authentically identify our ‘John Doe’s.