March 21, 2007
Self-Awareness can be triggered by various stimuli such as our environment or the presence of other people. Objects such a mirror or photo can also trigger this state. Often this leads us to compare our current self to certain standards. It’s important to note that our perception of our self can be often skewed and inaccurate. We can also experience conflicting feelings as a result of the discrepancy between our actual self, ideal and ought self. Our ideal self is how we want to be and the ought self is who we think we should be. Depending on the extent of these discrepancies we may experience various negative affects such as hopelessness, resentment, regret, powerlessness, depression, etc.
Because self-awareness can be aversive, people spend a lot of energy trying to avoid such circumstances through a variety of means. These vary in effectiveness and range from alcoholism, self-deception, drug use, isolation, masochism, sex etc. The last method mentioned has particular significance on a biological level. In a 2006 issue of Neuron psychologists revealed that the superior frontal gyrus plays a significant role in self-awareness. In particular, during certain activities such as sex or watching movies, activity in this region of the brain is inhibited.
It could be argued that the Internet is a form of what some have dubbed ‘media addiction’. I would maintain that this is somewhat amplified in such online activities as multiplayer gaming and in communities as Second Life. This is because like communicating over the Internet, individuals can be social anonymously, however online games and other communities allow for the construction of entirely new identities which are less anonymous. Also, these communities have slightly different social standards and indicators of success. In a virtual world it is a lot easier to bring the perceived actual, ideal, and ought into balance. Users can customize their physical experience and behave in ways divergent from their ordinary personality. I do not think this is entirely a bad thing, however the impact this has on individuals in the non-virtual world is not entirely certain as of yet.