Masthead CMC Magazine / March 1, 1996
 The Gendered Mystique, by Leslie Regan Shade

Turkle: Examining the Mixing and Matching of Virtual Personas

For Turkle, one of the reasons so many people seek out computer-mediated relationships and delve deeper in to the psychological fragmentation that the screen can offer is that our RL is itself becoming increasingly splintered. Social institutions that were once the mainstay of our everyday lives are being disrupted or dissolved. Economic reality for many is in an intense process of flux and uncertainty. Government entities and services that aim to serve and abet citizens find themselves in a vicious cycle of purported deficit-reduction and privatization. Feelings of empowerment and coziness with the political system and power structure are, for many, regarded with cynicism and apathy. So, the ability to create multiple identities within various contrived, yet for many remarkably vibrant Internet scenarios is at once a reaction to this pre-Millenium dislocation and a way of creating a sense of purpose and participation.

This process is what Turkle calls 'cycling' through 'mix and match' identities. The effect of virtual personas on RL, the effect of RL on virtual personas, and the confluence and the disruption caused by these realities, is what concerns Turkle. She examines MUDs, where individuals can create characters and participate in games, rituals, and different lifestyles.In some instances, participation in MUDs has enriched personal knowledge; in other cases, the blurring between the virtual and the real has exacerbated everyday tensions. As to whether or not MUDs proffer psychotherapeutic benefits, Turkle writes that "one is tempted to say that they stand the greatest chance to be so if the MUDder is also in psychotherapy. Taken by themselves, MUDs are highly evocative and provide much grist for the mill of a psychodynamic therapeutic process. If 'acting out' is going to happen, MUDs are relatively safe places, since virtual promiscuity never causes pregnancy or disease. But it is also true that, taken by themselves, virtual communities will only sometimes facilitate psychological growth" (p. 208). --

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