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Personal Identity and the Self in the Online and Offline World

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The emergence of social networking sites has created a problem of how the self is to be understood in the online world. As these sites are social, they relate someone with others in a network. Thus there seems to emerge a new kind of self which exists in the online world. Accounting for the online self here also has implications on how the self in the outside world should be understood. It is argued that, as the use of online social media has become more widespread, the line between the two kinds of self is becoming fuzzier. Furthermore, there seems to be a fusion between the online and the offline selves, which reflects the view that reality itself is informational. Ultimately speaking, both kinds of selves do not have any essence, i.e., any characteristic inherent to them that serves to show that these selves are what they are and none other. Instead an externalist account of the identity of the self is offered that locates the identity in question in the self’s relations with other selves as well as other events and objects. This account can both be used to explain the nature of the self both in the online and the offline worlds.

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Research for this paper has been supported in part by the Commission on Higher Education, Ministry of Education, the Thailand Research Fund, and a grant from the National Research University Project, project no. AS569A.

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Correspondence to Soraj Hongladarom.

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Hongladarom, S. Personal Identity and the Self in the Online and Offline World. Minds & Machines 21, 533–548 (2011).

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