Cyber Citizen: Who Is The Self In The Virtual World

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Cyber psychology and the shifting persona of the cyber citizen: Who is the self in the virtual world?

The Internet has grown faster and has become more invasive and integrated into our lives than most people could have ever imagined. Since the year 2000, Internet usage has increased by 566%. [1] Current statistics estimate that 63.2% of Western Europeans are digitally active on a regular basis. When broken down generationally, 93% of teenagers are active. [2] From this and the constant progression of technology we can assume 100% of Europeans will be classed as digital citizens in the year 2020. Indeed Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has gone as far as to say that 100 % of the world’s population will be online in the year 2020 [3]
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For a cyber reality to exist healthily along with a real one a cyber citizen needs to have the same responsibilities and needs to be as civic minded, as the term citizen requires. The issues arise when citizens are in a world when laws and morals, as we understand, them do not exist. In the real world an individual is bound by the laws and responsibilities of the society, he has a moral compass that has been developed from the influences of that society. When he goes online he has the option of holding onto those rules or morals or jettisoning them to become whatever he wants. If someone is a father or husband in the real world does he still have the responsibility to behave as such in the virtual one? Millions of people using alternative identities inhabit virtual worlds every day. This can be as innocent as creating avatars to play “Farmworld” or on a deeper level they can spend endless hours in programs like “SecondLife” where they can actually create an entire new existence for themselves. They can create new worlds, fall in love and make and break their own laws. They even use their own virtual money (Interestingly, mirroring Layman brothers, August 2007, a $750,000 in-world bank called Ginko Financial collapsed due to a bank run after Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life banned gambling) [10] To judge both these activities similarly is a mistake. Both are termed ”role playing” but it is