The alter egos for different social networks have different characteristics, demanded by the nature of the social network. The greatest irony is that users find no contradiction in branding most of the celebrity world ‘fake’, ‘manufactured’, ‘insincere’, lending celebrities no right to protect their lives behind the masks the rest of humanity is so eager to wear, all the while hiding conveniently behind pictures that look much better than people in real life (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). It is hard to imagine a user putting a picture on their profile with eyes half closed and mouth agape (unless it’s ugly-cute – 'oh look, don’t their antics look so funny here?'), to post pictures of unshaved armpits or cellulite dimples – yet that is what sells at the newsstand if the subject is a celebrity. Hypocrisy much? Much too much, if you ask me.
The Gaming ‘I’
And then there are computer games. The discrepancies between people and their avatars are sometimes startling – there is almost no connection between the one and the other, except that they are ... the same person. For business purposes you can build alter egos online to lip-sync your message with the help of a digitally created talking head. You can also create an alter ego in eight easy steps on the popular ehow.com or play alter ego games online by reliving your life as someone else in a perfect alternative-life-story simulation. And while all this bullshit is going on, with hours upon hours spent perusing that artificially constructed reality of artificially constructed personas, celebs still get a beating for not being ‘real’.
The Creative ‘I’
Alter egos as a creative method have been used since time immemorial in music, comedy, film, comics, and literature. Some contemporary celebs have alter egos who play on the Jekyll and Hyde scenario (Slim Shady vs. Eminem, T.I. vs. T.I.P, Brook-Lynn vs. Mary J Blige, Roman Zolansky vs. Nicki Minaj). Others are excitingly original, inspired by other forms of art, like Janelle Monae’s Cindi Mayweather. In rare cases alter egos have seemingly melted into their ‘hosts’ (Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga) – these are the luckier bastards who can even pass unrecognized in the more obscure corners of the world without their camouflage.
Nowadays a number of hugely successful artists flaunt multiple alter egos, using them both for art and as aspects of their public personas: Nicki Minaj has already presented ONika, Barbie, Rosa, and Roman Zolansky; I have a feeling there are more on the way. Stefani Germanotta has Jo Calderone, Yuyi the Mermaid, Mother Monster, Mary Magdalene, and ... what was the other one? Ah, Lady Gaga! I nearly forgot.