“I’m excited to explore the idea of truth and trust and online versus IRL personas, but also how funny it is when people meet?”

It’s the penultimate post for HELLO INTERNET BOY, and tomorrow I’ll be reflecting on the project as a whole. But today, I wanted to revisit my aims, my ‘statement of intention’ from the very first post, and probably from my application. This idea of truth and trust in the online versus IRL persona – did I come to any great leaps of discovery, any epiphanies?

Sort of.

I kind of DIDN’T get proven incorrect, and that’s interesting in itself. I wondered if by meeting people IRL that I’ve known for ages online, that something dramatic would shift. I suppose the doomsday scenario is that I would discover that the person I thought I “knew” was an illusion, a projection, and that the real person behind that persona was someone I actively disliked, or was so different they’d be unrecognisable. It’s the story that comes from shows like Catfish, or was what I feared as a teen in the airport, when we thought we were picking up an obese middle aged woman instead of a plucky farm teen.

Rather, meeting Michelle and Lyndsay was almost exactly as I expected – there’s definitely a deepening of the friendship (at least for me – maybe they hate me x100 more), but I was definitely meeting the people I knew online. I would argue that the increase of friendship came from shared experience, rather than any particular power or truth from real life. But also that capacity for that level of a shared experience can’t really be facilitated online. There is a kind of topping of experience in purely digital – people can be incredibly, incredibly close, but will always have a barrier of physical distance. People can be closer on the internet than in real life,  for sure. But perhaps it all leads towards a proving moment, the testing zone of meeting in real life?

Because I suppose when it comes to trust, I now 100% definitely trust that Michelle and Lyndsay are real people, and not malicious AI’s or old internet men after my fortune (joke’s on them). I never had that worry before – ever. But I also had no real stakes. Online I trusted them to be who they were, but really they never had to prove it to me. That moment I met Michelle in the airport, that was high stakes. That was where she could have ripped her flesh-mask off and revealed that she was sent back in time to stop this project from ever happening. That’s when she could have revealed she was the head of a porn ring called ‘Sallow white dudes .com’ and she was just after some sweet butt pics.

So I think truth is subjective between online and digital personas, and trust is forced. Which honestly is what I assumed already – but it’s good to have it confirmed.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

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