The internet changes the way people perceive their own identities as the meaning behind having an identity on the internet shifts. Matters of identity are not affected solely by the way a person interacts with a self created Avatars or by whether or not they choose to maintain Anonymity, but it is also affected by all the actions they perform while on the web, and who views Anonymity interactions with their environment. What exactly constitutes an identity on the internet is debatable. Many casual users see identity as something that can be stolen or as a way to access personal information[1] Neither of these interpretations of identity in the context of the internet is wrong, but they each raise their own contradictions and concerns. For example, does a player's Avatars have any connection to the physical world beyond being created and controlled by the person who claims it as their own, and is this a thing that can be stolen? Inversely, if a person's identity is stolen, though the culprit gains access to that person’s private details, do they, in a way, steal the identity of this person? The Avatars are likely closer to the person who created its personal identity than their checking account number, so even if a person were to steal Avatars, they would not be able to steal the identity of it, since it exists with the creator. Also to consider, personal identification numbers for bank accounts are arbitrary numbers assigned to clients that have nothing to do with their personality, yet they can be considered that person’s identity in the context of the law.

When online, it seems that a personal identity is created by a combination of these things. Though a person can attempt to construct their own identity,[2] To some users, their identity could consist of Paypal statements and bank transactions, yet to others, it is a record of missions completed in a game and posts on a forum.

Neither of these interpretations are necessarily wrong as identities emerge through navigating the internet. This creates a far more abstract form of identity that is still relatively new in the world, and as a result, creates problems that have never existed. For example, how is the law supposed to treat identity online when different users identities are constructed of such different things? As it currently stands, it seems that social security numbers and credit card information are the default form of identity in a legal sense on the internet, but as the way people interact on the internet changes, the way identity is viewed may also have to shift.


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  2. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.