Weaving Tangled WWWebsJun 14, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
Belonging to the Epinions community is "real" to many of us. By reading and rating reviews, leaving and responding to comments, and participating on Epinions-related discussion boards, many of us have developed real friendships and relationships with people we may never meet in person. Most of us are content with our off-screen lives and are comfortable letting others have a glimpse of who we are. Folks who read my reviews know that I'm a single mom of a great teenage kid, have been in grad school far too long, live on a very low income, own (or am owned by) a grouchy dog, and am pretty happy with my life. I don't always talk about the dishes in my sink or the often overflowing laundry basket in the hall . . . but they are real too. I have no problem admitting that I am human, a few pounds heavier than I'd like to be, live a somewhat boring lifestyle, and unfortunately have few vices other than Epinions. In essence, what you see in my reviews, in my posts to the Civil Epinionators board, in my comments, and in my e-mails is me. Meet me in person and you will see the same person you know on the screen.
Unfortunately, not all members are happy with their current lives. The anonymity of cyber space offers temptation to create an alternate reality. Embellishing truth is a common human failing. And, we are all human.
For the past few months, I have corresponded with another person I met through reading some very well-written reviews. When I joined a message board, I got to know her on a more personal level. I was happy to hear that she had a wonderful marriage and a beautiful child. I chatted in chat rooms and through Yahoo Instant Messenger, received e-mails with pictures of the baby, rejoiced over good news, sent her e-cards to cheer her, and spent hours praying for very serious health issues and problems. I was the kind of friend in cyberspace that I try to be in real life.
During this time period, I trusted that this person really was who she said she was. I took her at screen value. After all, I'd read her words, seen pictures of her baby, responded to her requests to pray for her, and laughed and cried with her. This week, I learned that this person's real life had very little in common with her on-screen persona. She was not married, had no children, and instead of living abroad, was living with her parents and attending college. Her Epinions personality, carefully cultivated in Epinions-related arenas, had nothing to do with reality.
Has this affected me as another Epinions member? Very much so. I'm devastated to learn that this person, whom I thought was a friend, was nothing like the person she described herself to be. I lost a little bit of my faith in humanity. And, I'm not the only one. Other women who supported her were planning cyber-baby showers, shopping for gifts, spending hours online with her in the wee small hours, and especially praying for her. It hurts. It hurts all of us.
What is the lesson for the rest of the Epinions community? When you cultivate your Epinions personality, be yourself. If people don't like you for who you are, they won't like you any better if they find out that you hide behind a false image. Nobody is perfect and very few people lead an action-packed glamorous lifestyle. Epinions is all about real people. Let's keep it that way.
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