Monday, November 15, 2004

Who are you really?

4 years ago I got the internet for the first time in my home. I started wandering around and came across a chat room for folks of the LDS faith. I hopped in and spoke to a few people there.

At one point, one of the other users asked if anybody played any musical instruments. I responded that I played the saxophone and the piano, both mediocre. He got excited, “I play the piano too! I’m Marvin Goldstein.”

I responded without missing a beat, “Really! That’s great, I’m Porter Rockwell.”

I knew Marvin Goldstein, or rather I had heard him play many times. He is incredible. He is the church’s foremost accomplished pianist. He is a master at his craft. And he certainly wouldn’t be chatting in an LDS chat room at 9:30 at night.

“No really, I am,” he responded.

“Prove it.” I said.

5 minutes later I had to admit he either knew a whole lot about Marvin Goldstein, or I was really talking to the master.

“Go over to my sight, pick out a CD, and I’ll send it to you.”

By this time I was convinced. I told him the CD that looked interesting, and he promptly replied that it would be in the mail the following day. Three days later I had the CD and a slightly red face. I have never met a more gracious person. His character is as warm as his music. If you ever get the chance to hear him play in person, don’t pass it up.

Identity is a curious thing on the net, but there are parallels to real life. When I meet somebody for the first time, the first thing I do is to judge them, both by “expressions given, and those given off”. I do not mean this in a negative way, rather I’m simply trying to gather information. If they are wearing a cowboy hat, a CD sized belt buckle, and snakeskin boots, I might decide that this person possibly could like country music, might be from a rural area, or enjoy John Wayne movies. I may be completely wrong, but I’m beginning to categorize who this person is, and what makes them tick.

Online we do the same thing, although we are a bit handicapped when it comes to gathering information. I thought the author of this weeks reading did an excellent job of describing different ways we gather information about a person whether it’s by their username, e-mail, or the ‘voice’ in their messages.

The username I always use when going into a chat room or discussion board is Firemeboy. I like this username because those who know the term always ask me about it. It’s an inside joke that gives insight to what one of my interests is.

Just as in real life, it takes time to build our identity. Somebody who meets me for the first time meets a white male, about 30 years old, who is a bit quiet. The more I get to know them, and they know me, they will find out more about who I am and what makes me tick. As they do so, they will begin to determine if I can be trusted or cooperated with. It is quite difficult to trust a person you do not know.

There is certainly a benefit to having a reputation and a cost to building one. The reading said that “Information exchange is a basic function of Usenet. And if I am a member in good standing of the community, and have shared information in the past, and my identity is well known, I will more likely receive help from the community. Therefore, if the cost of building a reputation is lower than the benefit of having one, a rational individual will seek to build a reputation.

George Bush just made the comment that with the election, he has gained a lot of political capital and he intends on spending it. Reputation capital can also be gained and spent. On this discussion board I visit, I try to make all of my posts either insightful, funny, or at least interesting to read. I have gained many friends on this board that I have never met, but who I have helped in the past. When I pose a question, there are always several who are willing to help me out, based solely on my ‘identity’.

1 comment:

David said...

That story is too hysterical...

"Therefore, if the cost of building a reputation is lower than the benefit of having one, a rational individual will seek to build a reputation." Amen.