The Alt Key

The alt key has been a staple of our keyboards since the day that they were invented. Maybe. I don’t really know enough about keyboards to verify this fact, but it sure sounds true enough! Now, I’d like you to take just a moment to calm down. Relax. Take a deep breath, and imagine a world where the alt key did not exist. A parallel universe where you would be unable to Alt+Tab out of a game, lack the ability to use alt codes to type cool ASCII characters, and be blissfully ignorant of the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del (and its namesake keyboard shortcut.).

I want you to mediate on that hypothetical universe. Would your life be substantially different? Think about it...

And promptly discard it. I don’t think it’s possible to write an entire essay on the alt key, though I’d be more than happy to read any attempts! Rather, we’re going to be talking about alternate lives on the Internet, and how people may lead their own. After all, you certainly have the ability to be less personal on the Internet, correct? When the people you’re talking to can’t see your face or hear your voice, how do you think that you act differently? Depending on the situation, some people may go as far as to live completely different lives online, using a persona, so to speak.

I’m not going to pretend that this is some sort of formal essay or anything. This is my first time submitting anything here, and I’m trying to keep it casual! While I did ask around for some other people’s opinions about the topic, I’m not going to claim that this represents Internet users as a whole. Everyone approaches the Internet in their own way, after all! There are a lot of people out there that use the Internet as a way to show their true selves, in order to more easily connect with those they know in real life. Hell, I'd say those people comprise most of the Internet! Now, personally, I find that I change my personality a little bit, trying to act as the person that I want to be. It’s difficult for me to really be myself in real life, and I believe that the Internet is a fantastic place to do so.

Now, before I started writing this entry, I thought that the best thing to do would be to ask around. Just using my experiences wouldn't be the best option! First of all, I asked my friends. The responses that I received certainly matched what I knew about them! Some mentioned that they use different pseudonyms on different websites, and that they find themselves acting differently under each one. Others said that there’s a clear distinction between their “real selves”, and their “Internet selves”, for one reason or another. It was unsurprising to me that it seemed to only be a minority that didn’t view much of a difference between their lives online and off, just as it was unsurprising that these results didn’t change much when I started asking elsewhere on the Internet.

I think that part of this is simply because you can’t see the other person. In real life, it’s a pain (and sometimes impossible) to look the way that you wished you look, to present yourself the way that you want to be perceived. You can see this a lot with how people draw themselves, giving themselves features that they simply do not have in real life. I choose to present myself as a demon bunny vampire with pink hair, since that’s just really fun! I act differently online, I’m more extroverted, I don’t have to worry that the other person will see what I’m like in real life and refuse to speak to me... Obviously, not everyone who chooses to use drawings to show themselves is the same way -- I highly doubt that every single furry on Earth wants to be perceived as their fursonas, after all.

Even if people don’t represent themselves with drawings or animations, they may still find it easy to act differently on the internet, though I got more than a few answers of “I act the way that I wish I could in real life” when I asked around, raising a pretty interesting question. Are people putting on a persona online, or are they putting on a persona in real life? For a lot of people, the Internet is the only place where they can really be themselves! Where they can go by their true gender, their real name, their real sexual orientation, and so on and so on. That’s the magic of the Internet, really. If you can't be the person you want to be in real life, then you may lead an alternate one online.

And someday, if possible, maybe you could act that way in real life, too.

This article was created by Dizzy