Figure 1. Online vs. offline self.
The presented video beautifully demonstrates how most people today have multiple online identities. According to the Internet Society (2011), an ‘online identity’ is the sum of one’s characteristics and interactions on the Web. An online identity consists of several partial identities or personas that represent different characteristics, based on the information ourselves and others provide (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2015).
Individuals who have multiple online identities are given the opportunity to manage and express aspects of their persona in various contexts (Lee, 2016). For instance, my Facebook account allows me to stay in touch with friends and family via photos and updates. In contrast, my LinkedIn profile allows potential employers to access and view my professional side. Therefore, having multiple online identities allows me to keep both my personal and professional lives separate.
Figure 2. My online identities.
The concept of multiple identities is a complex and multifaceted issue which has sparked many heated debates among online communities (Krotoski, 2012).
Figure 3. The anonymity vs. authenticity debate.
There are advantages associated with having multiple online identities. For example, in regards to anonymity, some writers and bloggers use pseudonyms to maintain a sense of privacy and freedom (Faith et al., 2011). Furthermore, an individual can express a different side of their personality without the fear of being judged (Bonari, 2011). However, having multiple identities can also lead others to think that a person is untrustworthy and inauthentic. For example, individuals with an online identity have the ability to redefine and separate themselves from the physical world (Longair, 2006). Thus, issues arise as individuals can abuse this freedom and create an alias; this can lead to deception, which can be seen on the MTV programme, Catfish.
Figure 4. Catfish teaser.
It is important to consider the possibility that individuals can responsibly manage their online identity without needing to divide and conquer. For instance, findings from Herring and Kapidzic (2015) suggest that Facebook users nowadays are more conscious about the information they share online. Therefore, managing your digital identity is essential as you can be socially and culturally assessed based on your online presence (Costa & Torres, 2011).
Overall, all forms of online identity depend on a user’s motivations and goals for using the Web. Education for online behaviour should be taught from a young age as the digital world is becoming increasingly synonymous with real life (Krotoski, 2012). This will allow future generations to manage their online identity more wisely, in addition to guiding others on their online identity.
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Bonari, A. (2011). The pros and cons of using an alias for your online persona. Social Media Today.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2015). How different are your online and offline personalities? The Guardian.
Costa, C., & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação e Tecnologias, 47–53.
Faith, J., Siren, S., Marks, A., & Lee, A. (2011). The pros & cons of your online identity. Independent Fashion Bloggers.
Herring, S. C., & Kapidzic, S. (2015). Teens, gender, and self-presentation in social media. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 146–152. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-08-097086-8.64108-9
Internet Society. An Overview of Identity.
Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian.
Lee, N. (2016). Having multiple online identities is more normal than you think. Engadget.
Longair, R. (2006). Social identities: Online versus real-life. The University of Aberdeen.
Webster, L. (2015). The evolution of internet identity. YouTube.
Header figure. Nature and Apple products. Retrieved from Flickr.
Figure 1. Online identity video. Accessed from YouTube.
Figure 2. My online identities. Self-made via Google Slides.
Figure 4. Catfish teaser. Accessed from YouTube.