|Social identity for sale|
by Samantha Maciag
How much would you pay to spend your life in someone else's shoes? Nicael Holt, an Australian who put his life up for sale on EBay, received $7,500 from an unnamed EBay buyer. Holt listed his identity for sale in January 2007 with the inten- tion of giving up everything including piercings, hairstyle, surf- ing, climbing, skateboarding, and fire twirling skills, his Australian accent, jokes, friends, family, and even lovers - eight of whom he has been flirting with that you could choose from. The auction included a four-week training course to become Holt, as well as two months of telephone support following the course. "A friend owes me $20. Another friend owes me a six-pack of beer which you can redeem upon winning the bid," he wrote. "There is some tension with a former ex from a painful breakup which must be inherited." Not included in the sale is Holt's legal identity. The new Holt will not be entitled to a passport, legal names, or any inheritance. Holt considers this as an assuming of a new social identity rather than the assuming of a legal one. The plan is to follow the winning bidder and track the progress of his or her transformation into Holt's life for a docu- mentary. Holt will assume an entirely new identity and will have no contact with anyone in his former life, unless they happen to meet under his new persona. University of Regina psychology professor Donald Sharpe finds the idea partially reminiscent of psychologist Erik Erikson's theories. "When you're in your 20s, there are two things you are sup- posed to do - find out who are and who you want to be with," Sharpe said. "I don't see it as strange, things like this have been happening for centuries, it is just that now the medium to do so is different." Holt's use of the Internet as a venue for a life-changing event is different, but not totally unique. A University of Victoria (UVic) student, Jeremy David Peters, has decided to live his life like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Peters has created a website where visitors can give sugges- tions for his next adventures. The suggestions are then voted on in different polls Peters puts up on the website. "In the past people would just ask their friends what they should do. Now with blogs and MySpace people have the forum to put their lives out there for everyone and receive feedback on a much larger level," said Sharpe, pointing out that now we can ask people on other continents for their opinions and we are no longer restricted to our own social circles. "Why do I let people make suggestions and vote on my life? I guess I am pretty trusting of the collective consciousness," Peters wrote on his website. "That and I like random adventures, but often have trouble thinking of them on my own." According a press release from UVic, Peters has already been directed to Europe, Australia and New Zealand and in August of 2007 he will be embarking on a tour of the world, relying entire- ly on his website for direction. "Travel shows and reality TV are incredibly popular, and this takes those two mediums to the next level," wrote Peters. "Few people have the opportunity to watch a travel show and say ‘go here and do this.' Now everyone can."