Today, both my wife and I received requests for money via social network 'conversations'. In my case, Kicks4Kenya casually tweeted about donations for his project, which is donating real soccer equipment to village kids in Kenya. While I've never owned a soccer ball in my life, I had been following this person (I don't know his real name) for about a year now and though his infrequent tweets, I've come to recognize his 'voice' and his enthusiasm. When the request for a donation happened, I went to his website and clicked the donate button with no second thoughts.
At about the same time, Mary Ann was greeted on her Facebook chat by an old friend, with a tale of woe. She'd been mugged in England and lost her money and cell phone. After a couple of exchanges over the chat, something felt wrong. She asked an innocent question about a common friend and when that question was ignored, mental warning bells went off. She opened another window, located the warning about this particular scam and proceeded to alert Facebook and her friends about it.
After the fact, Mary Ann puzzled over various things that 'didn't feel right' about her conversation with the supposed friend. As I heard her talking about it, I realized that this was very much like the 'voice' authors are all supposed to have. It's an elusive combination of wording, knowledge, and emotion that together make up a distinctive identity when you read their words.
Here we had two examples. I had no doubt about the identity of my twitter fund raiser friend, even though all I had to go on were a few short sentences. In my wife's case, a few sentences were enough to flag the originator as a fake.
'RL' is the shortcut for 'real life' and is often used to indicate face to face interactions in contrast to the text only social contact we have over our internet applications, but more and more, these text only contacts are becoming as real as we're ever going to get, meeting up with people we've never met face to face. Our 'authorial voice' in our tweets has become our real life identity to many, and it's pleasing to see that it can be a reliable guard against people trying to defraud us.