Hi, Pitcairn, welcome to the roiling circus that is RI, full of gladiators and jugglers and death-defying artists and, dare I say it? with its share of clowns and animals... I for one am glad you left your seat in the audience to come join the action on stage.
Your intervention brought up a very good point that had been lost in the scuffle: Onion's assertion that:
...no matter one's sincerity, one's online identity is a fiction created, consciously or unconsciously, for the purpose of projecting an image of oneself, virtually speaking. Again, no matter the sincerity, this image is necessarily limited and false. Adopting the third onion is simply a way to acknowledge this fact and to serve as a constant reminder that the written persona and the true self are not the same.
Beyond the simplistic pointing out of the obvious, I think this statement is profoundly false.
After all, the same could be said for conversations between co-workers, or people who meet at a party, or neighbours or spouses, or between even the closest friends or relatives. Without identifying or defining "true self", one could argue that the "selves" that each of us reveals as, say, a parent, a boss, a political activist, a partners or a buddy, etc., etc., are "not the same" as the "true self" whatever that is.
This strikes me as dangerously dissociative (if you really believe that you can be someone other than who you "really" are), or manipulative (if you are deliberately trying to project a false persona to others).
In any case, it is alien to me. Although the jokes I tell small children are different from the ones I tell my best friend, the sense of humour is the same. Talking about politics with adults and talking about behaviour in the playground with my kids, I stress and defend the very same standards and values that dominate and guide my moral compass.
Is there anyone here who espouses and defends views they don't really hold? Is there anyone here who pretends to care about something that really doesn't matter to them? I don't think they'd last very long (and I suspect that many haven't, of those who have tried). Some (not all) of the people here are a paranoid bunch, some with OCD tendencies (I mean that in the nicest possible way); there's always someone to catch a stray inconsistency or slip of the mask and proclaim it triumphantly.
I submit that if someone stays here a while, posting and discussing, eventually they reveal more about their "true" selves than they do in most social situations. I'd go even further, and suggest that this forum allows us to explore and discover things about ourselves and our deepest-held convictions, about our world-view and possibly about problematic aspects of our personality, that we might not have been aware of in our "normal" lives, as people react and respond with fewer social inhibitions to our stated opinions and the methods we use to get our message across.
"The Onion" may think he's got us all outsmarted, but the joke is on him. Despite what he thinks is his fiendishly clever disguise, using the third person and referring to himself as a vegetable, he unconsciously falls into the unique patterns that are characteristic of Dream's End, and that I could not emulate even if I tried real hard.
So, unless it can be conclusively proven that Dream's End and the Mad Onion are two distinct individuals (you techies would know how to do that better than I), then he himself is proof that our written "personas" here reflect and express our "true selves" at least as much as any interaction with other people can do so.