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Reena Saxena


Virtual People and Real Buttons
I don't actually know you. I haven't met you in person, so I don't know details. I don't know how you smile when something is funny, or how you frown when it's annoying. I don't know your gestural language, how you walk or hold your head, or how your voice sounds. I don't know all the little clues and quirks and foibles that make you who you are... in short, I only know what can be communicated through text.

So, I make things up. All the parts of my brain which manage social interaction and information, which are lacking the details I can't get from text, start to fill in the blanks. Things you say suggest people I have met that have said similar things, or said them in similar ways. I draw from real life, from movies and TV shows, and even from entirely imaginary scenarios to create a sense of a person... or in this case, a virtual person. It's a part of me, speaking the lines you give it, but all the little bits of humanity will be from me.

My virtual person might not be you. It's informed by you, but really, it's based on me, on what I've experienced and extrapolated and invented. My virtual you will have whatever traits I've assigned to it, modified by what you've said or suggested, but will still be my creation. As my creation, the traits it has resonate with me - what I believe to be wisdom, humor, intelligence... and what I consider to be negative as well.

The thing is, because my virtual person is my creation, any negative traits it has are going to resonate. Those traits will be what I dislike, and given that my virtual person exists inside my own mind, those traits will be ideally positioned to exploit that resonance. My virtual version of you will be able to push my buttons in ways real people may not be able to.

I'm certain I'm not the only one who does this. So the question is: how much of a person that pisses you off is them, and how much is your virtual version pushing your own buttons?

Karl Hodtwalker