To exist in the state of knowing someone's name, their true identity, in WoW creates a dynamic that doesn't exist in many other social media formats. (The levels of knowledge of my Facebook friends and family varies by the thinnest of social threads, to the deepest cords of blood and friendship. I have Facebook friends I have known since I was four years old, and some I wouldn't know if they slapped me on the street.) In WoW, we are taking on the identity of a character at its outset; in every other media we are who we say we are.
The delusion of personal privacy is powerful: I know many young adults who think everything they do on the Internet is private, gone, vanished: quite the contrary. You have left your permanent stamp, and the harm you do or mischief you make can come back and bite you in the wireless fanny.
|Poor Yorick, I Real ID knew him well...|
We all know unmasking the hero weakens him. We know their vulnerabilities, Achille's heels, and chinks in the dragonscales. If we find out personal details, it is truly a dual-edge: on the one side, we can help defend and support one another; on the other, we can cut, and deeply. But that is the nature of human relationships.
|Nacho! Summon your eagle powers!|
Whether or not you choose to become Real ID friends, consider those friendships carefully, with a skeptical and cautious eye. And it's not so much because of the wolves in sheeps' clothing, (which are dangerous predators), but the enjoyment of our time in play, too: when we are in Azeroth, we are enveloped in some degree of make-believe, whether we like to admit it or not. Knowing Real IDs can strip away the varnish and glamour somewhat, and once it's scraped away is nearly impossible to repair.
To those of you who are my Real ID friends: I have no regrets. It is wonderful to be able to play cross realm, time zones, and factions. To those of you who are not, you're not simply because I like the friendships we have as they are. You are my masked heroes in Azeroth, and I want you to keep your power.