One of the most poignant insights in Turkle’s research has to do with an online “virtual place” called Second Life (rather than a game, it is a recreation of family, lovers, friends and occupation). Second Life reveals there is a troublesome twist that is creeping into the concept of identity. Turkle recounts the story of a gentleman named Pete who uses second life to escape the mundane in order to create the world that he wishes he had online. Escape is nothing new to society. Obviously, Las Vegas thrives on escape. This is the deeper sense of a Las Vegan state of mind. What is new is the fact that now multiple lives can be lived simultaneously, not only in time but in space as well. While holding a phone in one hand and pushing his child on the swing with another, Pete engages both lives at the same time. This simultaneity is unprecedented in history. Pete says, “Second life gives me a better relationship than I have in real life. This is where I feel most myself. Jade accepts who I am” (Turkle, 2011, p.159). Turkle’s response highlights the shortcomings of this kind of identity conception: “The ironies are apparent: an avatar who has never seen or spoken to him in person and to whom he appears in a body nothing like his own seems, to him, most accepting of his truest self” (2011, p.159). We become our own simulacraz through our multiple avatars. The potential outcome for identity in the postmodern era is that the glimmering lure of the imaginary will blind people to the actual achievement of true identity in the real.
Clearly we are awash with a number of developmental challenges today that have never been known before. While cultures throughout the ages have always experienced dramatic change there is something new about our time. Never before in history have there been so many opportunities available for a person to be something they are not. While there are many potentials, there are many challenges as well. These are the things for us to consider as we move forward: “To move forward together—as a generation together—we are called upon to embrace the complexities of our situation. We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, and yet we have allowed them to diminish us (Turkle, 2011, p.295). The challenge today is to see how these technologies can be used to aid rather than hinder healthy development and to trace out the implications of technological trends with regard to the formation of personal identity and the changing nature of professional coaching. We must learn how to curb the trend and learn how to live creatively and productively in our own Las Vegas so that, as Shakespeare warned, we are not consumed by that which we are nourished by.
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