By Jon Michail

The online world has been seen, ever since it’s inception and subsequent growth, as a place radically withdrawn from the realities of real life — an idea that with recent developments in cyber-psychology, seems to have at least in some part, been proven to be not entirely the case.

There are similarities between the virtual world and the real world, and often times those things that were seen as solely existent in one or another, are actually mutually shared.

A person may choose to spend their time online, to escape the perceived negativities of the real world, or simply to enjoy something that is absent of the confining characteristics inherent in real life.

What inevitably occurs, is something of a strange phenomena to those who have studied the tendencies and activities of those that spend their time in online virtual worlds.

Attitudes and ideas that have been accumulated through a lifetime of experiences are frequently exported into the online arena; rendering the assumption that a user is escaping certain things in real life, not all that apparent.

It may be true that they consciously choose to spend their time online for these reasons, but the end result is that they don’t completely achieve this goal.

Research accumulated and pooled together by various researchers, and published by the Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, has uncovered revelations that perceptions once thought of as exclusively existing in real life, in fact also appear to be evident in online settings.

Low Physiacal Attractiveness Avatar Image Group International Women

Low Physiacal Attractiveness Avatar Image Group International Men

Their research shows that ideas of status and physical attractiveness, as seen in real life, have been imported into virtual world games.

Avatars used in various games send cues to other users that are perceived to reveal and mean certain things, “in the eye of the beholder”.

An avatar with less extravagant clothing and accessories is seen to occupy a lesser status than an avatar with more of these attributes.

Users also use these attributes, or lack thereof, to make assumptions about the person manning the avatar. A person who has less accessories or “add-ons” attributed to their character, has spent less money on their avatar, and thus is therefore perceived to be of a lower status in the real world.

This makes for somewhat of a double edged sword: where both perceptions of reality are imported into the virtual world, and then levied back into the real world based upon these imported attitudes.

Perception is everything

It’s important to take this information with a grain of salt — to rather than victimise oneself, use them for a sense of empowerment. Realise perception is everything, and reality in the eyes of the beholder. It can be used to sway things in your favour, despite the seemingly negative effects it may have in the immediate.

The online world shares many similarities with the offline world, and whilst one undeniable fact separates them from ever being the same, — one is real, the other is not — it’s being used by people in real life, and who’s real life experiences ultimately shape the way in which the virtual world turns out.

Using this to your advantage relinquishes you from being the victim: empowering to go beyond the limits of past perceptions, creating a new higher self value with greater impact.

What is your real or virtual world experience? I’d love to hear your comments.

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.

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