Our digital identity develops alongside our digital footprint as we engage with online spaces. Nowadays, occupying more than one online identity is extremely common. I will be discussing the arguments for and against, using my own examples, in order to shed some light on the topic.
The first advantage of having more than one online identity stems from Costa and Torres’ (2011) idea that multiple online identities increase our reachability. If you want to stand out online, it’s a good idea to possess multiple identities which shape your overall online identity. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (2015) summarises our online presence in a great metaphor: ‘Our various online personas are all digital breadcrumbs of the same persona.’ In other words, the internet provides us with the building blocks, which the Internet Society refers to as ‘partial identities’, to construct our online identity.
Glozell is an American comedian and a great example of someone who has used her digital identity to her advantage, creating a successful career. Her online presence is made up of many partial identities; Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr which all shape her identity. She is also presenting and marketing her skills (to entertain) in a positive way which is another advantage of possessing multiple online identities. Here is a snippet into her online activity. Following this, the diagram below represents my digital ‘breadcrumbs’ and how they make up my persona.
However, we must take into account the disadvantages. While online identity is centred on presentation, it also revolves around reputation which, according to Jarvis (2011), is shaped by others’ third person views of us. Alex Turner, lead singer of my favourite band, Arctic Monkeys claims that having a Twitter account is “too much pressure” (Bychawski, 2013). This video (Internet Society, 2015) raises the concern that the misinterpretation of digital footprints, such as tweets, could lead to reputational damage which could be a reason why Alex Turner decides not to use Twitter.
The more of our lives we conduct online, the more exposed we are to identity related crime, such as phishing (stealing personal data) and catfishing (occupying a fictitious character to lure someone into a relationship). It is our lack of anonymity, as described by Krotoski (2012), which makes us vulnerable to the risks of having an online identity. A recent bizarre example of a woman who was catfished by her best friend hit the headlines last September; find out more here.
Assuming that online ‘identities’ is a subset of online ‘identity’, I think on a professional level, having more than one should be seen in a positive light, providing that we are cautious of the risks involved. The more online identities you have, the bigger your online presence will be and the more people you can reach out to.
Word Count: 440
Bychawski, A. (2013) Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner explains why he is not on Twitter. Accessed 22/10/15 from http://www.nme.com/news/arctic-monkeys/73467
Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2015) How different are your online and offline personalities? The Guardian. Accessed 22/10/15 from http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/sep/24/online-offline-personality-digital-identity
Costa, C., Torres, R. (2011) To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society, Revista Educação, pp. 47-53
Internet Society Video (2015) Four Reasons to Care about your Digital Footprint. Accessed 22/10/15 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA6aiFeMQZ0
Internet Society Video (2015) Online Identity: An Overview. Accessed 22/10/15 from http://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview
Jarvis, J. (2011) One identity or more? Accessed 22/10/15 from http://buzzmachine.com/2011/03/08/one-identity-or-more/
Krotoski, A. (2012) Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian. Accessed 22/10/15 from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity