Monday, October 06, 2008

Flippin for Avatars

Thanks to my niece Caroline I'm hooked on creating avatars of myself. Last weekend she turned me on to this site where you can make your own character from South Park. I don't watch South Park religiously but still, I've been Simpsonized so it only seemed right.

A weird thing happens in the process of designing your own avatar. You have to make decisions about how you look. While not all the hairstyles match yours you have to find the one that best approximates you. Body type, eyes, mouth, all those physical features force you to decide if your nose is more like a button or a snout or your body is more round or narrow. While in principal it seems like it would be depressing it is actually fun. Let's face it cartoon characters are so much more forgiving in looks than people.

Once you pick your body and features, clothing your avatar is another trip. Again, you have to approximate, so you find the outfit that best shows your style. Which begs the question as you are clicking past peasant blouses and tank tops, what is my style? (Hint: black in anything is usually my first choice.) I find myself taking the fashion options quite seriously. I guess one should pay some attention to it, unlike me, my avatar is stuck with this outfit for as long as they thrive in cyberspace.

And then there are the accessories. "You've got to add your iPhone," Caroline told me. Emily, my other niece agreed. It's funny that they saw that as an essential accessory for me but I don't use my phone that often and I certainly don't carry it around. I do love it and allow them to jam it up every chance they get so maybe that's why.

The best part of creating my South Park avatar was the slogan I put across my shirt, "I rock." I did it to make my nieces laugh (and they did while rolling their eyes at my lame attempt at coolness -- they don't get it that being uncool is cool.) I would never wear a shirt like that in real life, would never walk around with my cell phone in my hand either but as a character from South Park, that's how I roll and I like it like that.

I have moments of worry when I think of how easy it is becoming to create so many alternate "personas" on the web. The assumption is that we create different identities to cover up our truth, I'm not so sure of that. What if our "whole self" is really a bunch of little selves? And what if each little self could be represented as an avatar? How many would I need to best represent myself? (I'm thinking the number is somewhere between 8 and 50.)

I know, I could get a little nuts with this. I recently got a web cam and made a short video of myself as a shark singing happy birthday to a friend. I looked and sounded good as an animated shark. Who knew?

The possibilities may be endless but the undeniable truth is that whether you run into me on the street or catch me here on the flip's still me. If you doubt that I'll morph into a butt kicking ninja to set you straight.

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