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Who We Become Online · MoSS Archetypes Framework

Urusaro Rwagaju
April 8, 2024

"You're not you when you're hungry"... a phrase famously coined by Snickers which most people can identify and laugh about - but isn't it true?

And much like when we're in the throes of being angry/hungry (aka hangry), we're often not ourselves when we're online either.

In our day to day, especially in "real" (or offline) life, our identities, whether consciously or subconsciously held are often visible, promoted, outwardly projected and often times celebrated or defended. Whether you're a proud member of a specific religious group, have ethnic heritages from different corners of the earth, are differently abled, or celebrate your gender or sexual identities.. who we are, and what we're about is on display (or sometimes hidden) every waking moment of our lives.

However, when we interact online, anonymity and pseudonymity, enables each person the opportunity to inhabit anyone or character they can dream of. This is a wonderful aspect of the internet – it allows anyone a chance to explore different identities, to experience life from a different perspective. You can become a spell-casting wizard in an online game, explore your gender identity safely, or participate in social groups that you otherwise wouldn't be able to reach.

Despite this, there are, of course downsides to this mysterious freedom. Not only does it allow some bad actors to intentionally do harmful and terrible things online, but it also means we all have less accountability in how we act and behave.

The result is that even though we may have a strong set of behaviours in real life, when online, we might find ourselves acting differently — especially in response to receiving or creating hate — and inhabiting new identities.

Through our work here at Museum of Sticks & Stones we have identified eight main archetypes that we all can embody (as it relates to harmful experiences) when online. These archetypes don't exist in isolation, but rather any one person can be a combination of anyone of these archetypes at a given time.


Some who, from their own experiences has decided that they do not like being online, particularly because they dislike how people (including themselves) communicate or act online. they feel jaded by the online experience and either try to disengage from digital spaces when they can, and/or resent having to use them.


This person believes that being a protector is the right thing to do, their duty, or their right to protect their own or others identity or existence online.This person usually uses factoids, 'fire', statistics, lived experience' or fiery and sometimes harmful, communication to stick up for themselves/others or waht they believe in as they think they are on the correct side of an argument or exchange and actively express that.


This is someone who has experienced receiving or engaging with content that they have found harmful. They have had some form of emotional response to content that attacks or speaks about an aspect of their identity or sense of self and they have found it harmful


This is someone who has felt uncomfortable or "off" from engaging with or being directly told something that pertains to their sense of self or identity


This is someone who can identify that they have participated in the creation or sharing of something someone has perceived as harmful, and now in hindsight regret doing so. Their intitial intent may or may not hve been intentional in harm creation. Regret, embarrassment or shame is felt because of their participation in harm and could occur immediately or down the line as their perspectives have changed.


This is someone who feels irritated by the state of the internet, the ways we communicate and maybe even society at large. they feel like they are always misstepping or unable to say what they want to say (or believe what they used to believe) anymore. They are likely criticised or even ostracised for  sharing their opinions. Their statements may or may not have an intent of harm behind them, but they have had experiences of being called out for communicating in the way they have.


This is someone who has witnessed harmful behaviour or content online. They may or may not have perceived it as personally harmful, but rather acknowledge that it is generally harmful or that someone was experiencing it in that manner.


This is someone who communicates online with the intent to ‘stir the pot’ or get a rise out of others. This archetype may or may not intend to cause harm, but does intend to be divisive when communicating online.

These archetypes also interact with our identities. For example, you may take on one archetype in response to when an identity you hold is threatened, but in another case not respond like that at all.For example, you might be an ardent advocate for action on climate change and believe you are a calm and considered individual. But, when faced with the comments from a family member that calls climate change a hoax, and anyone who believes in it ‘stupid’, you might find yourself leaping into the role of the Protector archetype and go in on the attack. You might be surprised at how being calm and considerate isn’t so important at that moment!


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