Wow, what a good looking guy, huh? This is my Avatar, Danson Laks. I tried to make him look like me as much as humanly possible. My first time on Second Life was very, very interesting. I circled around a supposed female for a bit as if she was an inanimate video game character until she said "Can I help you, Danson?" At this point I realized that Second Life gives you actual human interaction. I made friends with the Avatar I was accidentally pestering, but I realized I was in a REAL SOCIAL SITUATION where awkwardness was present. We can say some awful things on the internet. When we are cars on a highway, where you are visually and sonically separated by two thick layers of glass, you can swear at the top of your lungs, swerve at "idiots" and beep until your heart is content just because you can't see or hear the people you are cursing at. In the internet, things aren't much different. Some renegade bloggers can be extremely offensive with what they say in blogs, but I doubt they carry the same opinions in the real world. In Second Life, you actually can see and hear people. I couldn't punch my new friend's avatar in the mouth or say mean things because virtually, she was standing right next to me. My little brother moved back home from Boston for the summer and he signed up for Second Life because he was there watching my first experience. We walked around, flew about, and chewed the fat. It was far more real to me than emailing back and forth and it was far more visual than chatting on the phone. I really "hung out" with my little brother and it felt like I was because we look so much like our real avatars.
The internet can be anonymous, but I think people prefer to be a little exposed. People (including me) are switching to Facebook because you don't need an alias or obscure image of flattering angles. On Facebook, I am Dan Gross and almost all of the pictures of me were submitted by other people. I don't put much time at all into Facebook. I use it to stay in contact with hundreds of people who I otherwise would have lost all contact with. My Facebook profile hasn't been updated since I first joined three years ago, but when you look at my page, that is definitely me, not some kid trying to look like someone else.
I think people prefer to have their normal privacy, but a same level of exposure you'd expect walking around a city street. This makes it more like a realistic community, rather than a sea of bits of information and false identities floating around.