The way we communicate with each other means we acquire new identities all the time nowadays. I have a particular way of relating to people for each of the various media I use. My blog identity is one and I like to think that people who know me in the real world would recognise this aspect of the real me. There’s a more argumentative Elt who’s a bit of a tit on a couple of football forums, but who is also in me. There’s a Facebook me. I even have images attached to these elements of me, Sam Lowry, Lancelot Spratt, Sgt Rock, Billy Pilgrim.
It’s all a bit odd, a bit childish, but it is of our time. I can only imagine how my children play the same silly games with their identities, given they’ve never known a different world.
I’ve also acquired a representation of myself on our Wii, a Mii as they call it. It’s a sweet, dumpy, tubby, child-like equivalent of the real me and much better at wakeboarding – but worse at table tennis.
I’ve been pondering this recently because I’m re-reading Ballard, and as ever he has renewed my astonishment at his ability to foresee these sorts of developments thirty or forty years ago. In a 1977 article in Vogue he foretold this alternative universe, each of us coccooned in our own personal customised world, relating to other people solely through screens and fibre optic cables. What a man to be able to see this so clearly at such distance! As he put it, ‘the spherical mirror forms the wall of our universe, enclosing us for ever at its heart…’