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Gender switching is a much more common online phenomenon than most people may realize and it is an intriguing aspect of cyberpsychology.  Why would individuals want to “switch” genders when interacting with others online?  Where would this kind of behavior be applied and what does it say about our view of the genders?  The answers to those questions just might surprise you.


The first thought most people would have when considering the idea of someone assuming a different identity online is that it is for sexual or perverted reasons.  Certainly this happens with alarming regularity.  But this is far from the only reason for engaging in this behavior and it is the other reasons that spark more interest.


Gender identity can be swapped in a number of online environments, including gaming communities, chat rooms and social media.  It generally takes place in areas where there is direct interaction with others because the basic underlying reason for it is to get a specific response from someone or to see how others of your own biological gender will react to you if you assume the opposite gender.


Surprisingly, it is men who more often engage in gender swapping, though some women will also experiment.  While the basic reason for it is to see how the other half lives, in most cases the reasoning is much more complex than that.  It has to do with power; who holds it and how it is perceived.  


Society in general tends to see men in positions of power more readily than women and this holds true online as well.  By stepping into a male role then, a woman can see what it’s like to wield that kind of power.


For men, taking on a female persona may be a way of experimenting with their female side, something that society as a whole tends to look down on.  It could also be a way for individuals who are experiencing gender confusion in their “real” lives to experiment and discover where their true gender identity lies.  From both sides, there is also the benefit of being able to get a first hand feel for how the opposite sex reacts in a relationship, something that might be difficult to do as your own gender.


The benefit of doing this in cyberspace is that it is far easier to both assume and drop another identity, giving an individual more latitude to experiment.  For some, this kind of behavior can have negative motivations but for many it is born out of genuine curiosity or confusion and can be quite a helpful tool.


No matter which way you look at it, the ability to present yourself in any form you choose, is both a powerful and eye opening opportunity.  It is one of the many realities of life in cyberspace and one that continues to stir much controversy on both sides of the debate.

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Surprisingly, it is men who more often engage in gender swapping, though some women will also experiment.

ARTICLES | BY K.K.BROWN

Cyberpsychology & Gender Switching

AUGUST 28, 2016

Color illustration from SecondLife.com showing 3 young teen girls and 3 young teen boys, all well-groomed and stylish, in a potrait-type arrangement smiling and lookin very happy.

Image from SecondLife.com

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Second Life is an online virtual world, developed and owned by the San Francisco-based firm Linden Lab and launched on June 23, 2003.  By 2013, Second Life had approximately 1 million regular users.  In many ways, Second Life is similar to massively multipliers online role-playing games; however, Linden Lab is emphatic that their creation is not a game: "There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective".


The virtual world can be accessed freely via Linden Lab's own client programs or via alternative Third Party Viewers. Second Life users (also called residents) create virtual representations of themselves, called avatars, and are able to interact with places, objects, and other avatars.  They can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, build, create, shop, and trade virtual property and services with one another.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life

Second Life

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Cyberpsychology is the study of the human mind and its behavior in the context of human interaction and communication of both man and machine, further expanding its bounds with the culture of computers and virtual reality that take place on the Internet.[1] However, mainstream research studies seem to focus on the effect of the Internet and cyberspace on the psychology of individuals and groups. Some hot topics include: online identity, online relationships, personality types in cyberspace, transference to computers, addiction to computers and Internet, regressive behavior in cyberspace, online gender-switching, etc. Media Psychology is an emerging specialty and the Society for Media Psychology and Technology of the American Psychological Association, i.e., APA division 46 counts many psychologists working in this field among its members. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpsychology

Cyberpsychology

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