Shifting identity or the role play community online

vor 3 years

Kylie Jenner is a single daughter born from two polish immigrant parents, they moved to Paris in the early 80’s.

Now an apprentice in a luxurious atelier in the French capital, Kylie is dating Park Jimin, a painter who just freshly graduated from l’école du Louvre. Sounds quite unrealistic, right? This is an alternative reality that actually, and only exists on Instagram.

Your identity and everything that constitutes your personality is shared on social media. Your profile a 24/7 convenience store for online role-players to shop at. Two months ago, I randomly came across an account in my instagram notifications that had my face as her profile picture. Intrigued, I clicked and to my surprise I saw all of my past post slightly tweaked and with a caption that described a life that wasn’t mine. That’s how I met my online, impersonator or as she call herself, role-player.

The concept is simple, you can take anyone’s online identity and use their face as your own. You create a new name, age, profession and story in order to not get it confused with the real person. Those are the rules to get in the RL (role play) community. From then forward, you interact with different demographic in the community and find out which one suits your taste. It goes from friendship groups, common passion for k-pop, manga, fashion, cooking, gaming… to fetishes, porn and sexual exchanges.

This practice is the natural evolution of the fan-fiction phenomena that was popularized with the raise of the internet era. Social networks, with primary use for exchanging with people in other countries, became platforms for fans to interact with each others as well as directly messaging their favorite idol. Twitter saw the raise of the #Imagine hashtag in the early 2010’s, fans within all fandoms – from One Direction to Harry Potter – writing new realities and sharing it online. To some people being a fan became a source of escapism, a part of their personality and ultimately a part of their identity.

The fan-fiction movement grew so big that Fifty shades of Grey, a fan-fiction of the Twilight series, became a huge Hollywood production. K-pop and K-Culture is probably the most intense fandom of our generations. With Korean celebrities having to produce and share multiple videos and photos daily to keep the fans faithful, the amount of their content is so wide, that fans have enough material to edit extremely realistic and immersive videos and audios of them and turn it into pornographic content. Needless to say that fans’ craving for closure and escapism have gone out of hand and has become problematic.

My role-player, which I will call Audrey for the purpose of this article, is a French teenage girl, who is using my face in a Korean fetish community (although I am openly Chinese on social media). Most role-players are white caucasians impersonating asian people. She explained that RL is to her like a more realistic Sims game where they are allowed to escape their reality and become whoever they fancy. Although she explained to me that her play was supervised by her father, I couldn’t help but notice everything that is wrong with such practice.

The appeal of becoming someone else can easily be understood, if we are talking about someone that is excessively rich and attractive. However, it becomes problematic when it concerns ordinary people like me. To have someone using my face online is just a very odd practice that feels wrong. Add the fact that racial fetichism is also involved, between teenagers that are at a very vulnerable age. Such realistic, immersive and constant escapism from reality blurs the lines between fiction, reality, political correct and racist.

Words by Kelly Lin
Artworks by Martus Chai

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