Are online and offline personalities similar?

I think there are some similarities between those and some important differences, too. The similarities are that it is really people engaging in authentic social interactions. So, you see traces of those interactions. In some ways it offers great advantages.

Many social interactions in the offline world don’t leave a trace. If you and I have a conversation with each other, we have that conversation ephemeral, and it just vanishes. And if people have a conversation on let’s say, a social media platform, such as Facebook, e-mail or Twitter or something like that, it leaves a trace. It leaves a trace that we can analyse pretty well. So in some ways, social media and virtual worlds offer many more clues to behaviour. Another way they offer many more clues is that they are not limited. So, in something like World of Warcraft, for example, you could be what you want. You could be who you want to be, you can fly, you can do all kinds of things: you are not limited by the constraints of the physical world or your constraints.

Of course, that also allows people to kind of diverge more from who they are. In fact, World of Warcraft is the one area where we found that people, if they make an impression on somebody based on their World of Warcraft avatar, that’s the one place, we found, that people do not judge others accurately on the basis of those avatars. They agree on what these people are like, but they are not right.