Safer Internet Day: 3 Stories About Online Identity
by Laura Higgins
Community Digital Well-Being
Roblox is proud to support Safer Internet Day 2020 (#SID2020), and we hope that our whole community is able to join in—wherever you are in the world. The global theme this year is “Together for a Better Internet.” We also appreciate this year’s theme in the United Kingdom, which explores online identity and the idea of freedom to be, well, anything! While the Roblox team physically takes part in events in the United States and the United Kingdom, you can join in on the fun by picking up a new item for your avatar: a special #FreetoBe cap, available for free until the end of February.
We have an incredibly diverse community of players and developers from every region of the world, of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders. We want everyone to feel safe and happy on the Roblox platform, and to celebrate those amazing differences that make each of us so special. So this year, we wanted some of our community members to contribute to this blog post. We asked: what does online identity mean to you, and how has Roblox contributed to your story?
“It was important to me that my avatar could be genderless.” – Ashley, Roblox player and scripter
I joined Roblox a few years ago after seeing just how much fun my brother was having on the platform. Soon after, my presence on the platform became more than just about play. In the past few years, I’ve been going through various identity phases. Roblox allowed me to have an avatar without a specific gender identity (boy or girl). This was something that was really important to me as I worked my way through things in real life where I was realizing that I just didn’t suit being a boy.
Once I was on the platform, I found several trans and LGBTQ communities where I could have helpful conversations exploring my identity. I gradually started adapting my avatar to become more female—more myself—in the virtual world first. People whom I met on Roblox helped me embrace my changing identity, which impacted how I thought about it in real life too. I did get questions from some users asking why my avatar suddenly became a girl, but I tend not to go into everything that transgender means. What’s most important is that I can be accepted for who I am, which is truly empowering.
I’m now working on my own game as I started thinking about what else could be useful on Roblox and what people would want to play. I followed AlvinBlox, a YouTube influencer and Roblox developer whose tutorials helped me learn about creation. It’s going to be a tycoon game, and I even hired some modelers and a builder to help.
“If you’re ‘weird,’ and don’t fit into the place you’re in… try making a new one!” – Quazar49, Roblox game developer
From the very beginning, everyone has encouraged me to be just like everyone else. From school uniforms to social uniforms—so many kids and teens are happy with simply wearing jeans and a branded shirt to school on a non-uniform day. But if you were to look to the back of my class, you’d see a teenager dressed in red and black striped flares along with a hippie headband and multi-colored patchwork jacket from 1978.
To put it simply, school was hell for me: a 1970s-80s collector with long blonde hair and a “posh” sounding voice. Kids were stealing magnifying glasses from the science class to burn me using sunlight at break time. I got bruises from being kicked about in the hallways, and a backward “L-shaped” scar still remains just above my right eye today. Having gone through this experience, I ended up finding a place where I was accepted exactly the way I am: the online community of Roblox. I created my own world which is very different from everything you’ll see on the platform called “Vision Park.” It’s been hard work, but Roblox is a great creative outlet to build places that I’ve always wanted to bring to reality and meet and help those who deserve the attention I never got.
While not everyone might be into building digital worlds, the principle is the same. If you’re “weird” and don’t like the place you’re in, try making a new one! Don’t change who you are because “you’re not normal”—the “normal” way is boring, anyway. Even though I still get heckled and laughed at on the street, those people don’t know that Vision Park—the place I’ve poured all my dreams into—has been played almost two million times. They don’t know that I try to encourage creativity wherever I go and help those that feel outcasted by providing them with a colorful world to escape to. Building everything from scratch and running my own events, listening to every single player and being there for whoever needs someone to talk to… That’s what really matters now. Every person matters to me in my community, and that’s how I’ve been able to reach so many more people than I could ever have thought possible.
“There came a revelation: on a platform where creativity is limitless, why do I have to be so rigidly me?” – Carmel, Roblox Trust & Safety Advisory Board member
Today we share images of ourselves more than ever—perhaps we want to express our feelings, make a stand, or impress our friends. The Power of Image report conducted by the UK Safer Internet Centre found that 84% of 8-17-year-olds had shared an image online, with 12% of those being selfies. And we don’t just use conventional photographs to show who we are. It’s our avatars, too—Roblox’s own data shows nearly half of all players update their avatar every month!
The very first thing you do when you join Roblox is create an avatar to represent you. Thinking about this bigger theme of online identity for Safer Internet Day and how important it’s becoming, I decided to go through the process of recreating my Roblox avatar again. As I was dressing my character, I started by making it look like me; it had brown hair, was definitely female, and wore a nice necklace. I looked at her and I thought, “that’s nice but, meh.” There came a revelation: on a platform where creativity is limitless, why do I have to be so rigidly me?
I started again. I am going to be representing myself in games that might be tough, so I want to be strong—I’ve made my arms bigger and stronger. I’ve scrapped the necklace because it will just get in my way. I tried on a T-shirt with a dragon on it, not only because it’s cool but because dragons mean fire, and fire is lit! And this is what I’m going with now—my new fearless avatar.
If you are a kid or teen, now is a great time to try different things without fear of judgment and without having to make any real-life changes. Who do you really want to be? And if you’re a parent, ask your kid why their avatar is dressed or look the way they do. You might learn a lot about what is important to them. I strongly believe that through exploring their identity online and understanding more about who they are, kids and teens find communities and their place in the world, which in turn helps to build resilient young people.
These stories highlight just how powerful your online identity can be. They help define who we are and who we want to become. We take them with us across the virtual landscape, adapting them as we evolve and grow ourselves. On Roblox, you are #freetobe yourself, whatever that looks like.