Much has been blogged about keeping your first life identity secret in Second Life. So often the tone is either cheerleading for it or thinly veiled contempt for something that people see as inherently dishonest. If you can guess from my post on the relativity of boundaries, I’m pretty neutral on the issue; I believe that people should be able to approach their second life as privately or as openly as they choose, so long as they are respectful and responsible to both of their lives in the process. Yet when I’ve talked with others about it, the next follow-on question tends to be: “If someone is hiding important pieces of his/her identity, is that truly being respectful and responsible?” And I think that the best answer is: It depends.
It depends? What kind of cop out answer is that? Well, I believe we should strive to be straightforward with who we are, but there are situations where being direct about first life identity might hurt more than it would help. Perhaps an example could help explain. Recently, Drew Carey mentioned in his blog that he enjoys spending time in SL (and gave props to the creativity of Pandora Wigglesworth’s Curio Obscura). I’ve also heard rumors of other celebrities enjoying the more peaceful interactions that Second Life can offer. (Also, there was an article some time ago about Halle Berry’s experiences visiting chatrooms. Apparently, she would meet people, strike up a friendship, and, at one point or another, share her first life identity. What happened? No one believed her. Sadly, she was instantly recategorized as a crankpot and her friends would fade away.) Were I famous, I think Second Life would be a great place to feel like you’re having interactions with people based on how you relate to each other and not that you are a celebrity. Plus, we would all hate to see a half-true seedy tabloid article about how some celebrity’s avatar hangs out in – gasp – Zindra! (And if you don’t believe we could see an article like that, I have a nice quiet parcel of land to sell you on the mainland.)
I don’t think anyone would dispute that celebrities should be entitled to their privacy in-world. But think about it for a moment, to maintain privacy a celebrity might need to recast things about his/her first life identity. If sharing accurate information about their identity – even vague – could possibly result in loss of what brought them to want a second life in the first place, could you blame a person for trying to hide things? Given our fame-obsessed culture, I would think that going to great lengths to hide your first life identity in Second Life to be a generally responsible and respectful thing to do.
So my question to you, dear readers. If protecting yourself from adoring fans is a good reason to maintain secrecy about your identity, could there be other reasons? Any examples leap to mind?