I’m Just Me, Simple as That! About Shaun White’s Myspace Multiple Identities

In an earlier post entitled Imaginary Friends, I mentionned that Martine Neddam’s virtual characters reflected on the fashion aspect of our identity, as well as on its multiplicity. According to the artist, as soon, as you broadcast yourself, you are a virtual character subjected to any kinds of alterations and embodiment. These alterations are extensions of yourself as they make you appear to others in a certain way that you didn’t expect. It can be interesting but most of the time, it’s anoying. These days, we talk a lot about copyright, but what about these fake identities that we can’t always control?

As I wanted to find Shaun White’s profile on Myspace (as I said in the last post, in French, I thought his performances were so artistic. I wanted to add him to my profile), I soon realized that White had hundreds of profiles! Each Shaun White pretends to be the REAL one. I could of quit searching, but somehow, I found it very interesting for my theoritical reflexions on the effect of presence and the Web 2.0! These people were all making an attempt to create an effect of presence or an effect of real for their character. There are many ways to do it, some are more creative than others. Sometimes it was pretty convincing, I had to remind myself that they were all fictions. Other times I could definitely say that it was a fake. Of course they all use a « real » photograph of the celebrity and this contributes in creating an effect of real. I investigated this « Shaun White’s Myspace multiple identities » phenomenon as if I was doing a very scientific research!

There is a frequent and very naive strategy consisting of saying, from the beginning, that they are the real Shaun White. When you are « real », is there really a need to say it? Do you start a presentation of yourself saying that you are real? You can read a lot of these on the Myspace pages : « you’ve found me yes its me shaun white and dont ask again i am not one of those effin loser that makes up a bogus profile and pretends to be me. I am 100% me. » 100% him? what does it even mean? who can pretend to be 100% himself on an interface? Others even insult the fakes : « And if you see any other accounts, obviously they’re fake. No it doesn’t bother me anymore. I just find it pathetic, and a waste of their time. They must have a sucky life if they have to say they’re me right? » Why do people do that? Because they have a « sucky life »? Well, the « Shaun White’s » profiles are so different from each others that I think there are as much reasons to create fakes as there are fake profiles.

But fans desperately search the REAL Shaun White and I had to admit that I was on that quest as well. But when I realized how much they were, I asked myself : What difference does it make, if it’s the « real » Shaun White or not? Will I be interacting with him anyway? Why shouldn’t I take the one I prefer? I have the possibility to add to my friend the most interesting facet of that celebrity and to interact with it, because these Shaun White actually have time to answer to their fans! What would be, on a Myspace page, a real Shaun White anyway? Maybe, and that’s very probable, he is not even the one who manipulates is own official Website! Isn’t he a character fashioned by the medias anyway? Isn’t he already a mythical figure? Yes he is, and that’s why people embody him.

Some of the Myspace profiles are really precise, they give a great deal of details about White’s life in order to create the effect of presence, others only put the minimum and it is sometimes more effective. The most persuasive is when the author has perseverance. The character has to live through time, therefore, the ones keeping the website updated have more friends in their Myspace page. Some of them actually use this fake page to put a link to a group that they want to promote. Others really seem to take their role seriously, writing long text with precise souvenirs. Souvenirs create a great effect of presence actually : « I remember clinging onto my dad as he carried me up the hill at Mount Hood in Oregon, just so that i could ride down then do it again ». How does it feel to be Shaun White? Can we really know something about it by pretending to be him and interacting with some of his fans? Some even created private profiles. At first, I thought : « that’s it, that’s his profile! » But when I realized how much private profiles they were, again, I felt very naive. It was just another strategy that worked until I realize, because of the multiplicity, that it was actually a strategy.

Many of them focused on the seductive aspect of White to attract nice girls to the profile, while others are willing to give snowboard tips to their fans :  » i will respond to your comments and messages so dont be afraid its not like i dont have time i mean come on i am human! » Human, huh? Another one decided to entitle the page « the official Shaun White MYspace ». It could have been a good strategy, but I guess the authority of the « official » was no more relevant in that situation. The wisest strategy, in this extreme case, might be negation. Someone created a page like this : « I’m not the real Shaun White » . By admitting that he is not the real one, there is paradoxically an experience of the truth in there and, therefore, of the real.

Of course, Shaun White’s celebrity arose during the expansion of Web 2.0 and also he is part of the « computer » generation. Since the beggining of the sport, snowboarders have always broadcasted themselves; it was a major part of the sporting practice. That is why he is the perfect candidate for the creation of multiple identities. He has many zodiac signs, is aged from 18 to 100 years old and lives in different places at the same time (USA, Canada, Uruguay…etc.). What people are doing by creating these identities is giving Shaun White the gift of ubiquity…just like God 😉

The funniest MySpace profile to me was a « real » one that got lost into the sea of fake Shaun White’s hundreds of pages : the one of a 42-year-old woman actually called Shaun White. The funny thing is that there is the following statement written in big letters on the top of her page : « I’m just me, simple as that »!

If she only knew how much that is NOT « simple as that »!!!

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