Online Identity: One or more?

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.

My Digital Identity
My Digital Identity (click to enlarge)

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

References

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

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4 thoughts on “Online Identity: One or more?

  1. Hey Lucy,

    I do agree that multiple personalities online can result in a person being more vulnerable to attacks such as fraudulent behaviour, catfishing, as well as phishing and even cyberbullying. I agree that there is a certain pressure when it comes to maintaining an online persona, and even more when there isn’t a persona, but many personas to cater to and manage.

    However, that being said, I do get your opinion on how having an online persona, or multiple personas can benefit a person immensely, especially in a professional environment where nowadays, your online presence says a lot about the kind of employee you could possible be. However, managing multiple personalities online may cause a bleed from the professional one into the personal one, and vice versa, which on a corporate/professional level may not be the best/wisest thing as nowadays, everything can be tracked back to you, professional or personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Priyanka,

      Thank you for your comment!
      I agree that keeping up with multiple online identities endangers the professional one seeping into the personal one. This, of course, can have huge disadvantages, such as exposing yourself too much on a personal level to a future employer and risking your employability. However, I’ve read the article I’ve linked to you below which discusses various advantages of mixing your professional and personal lives. We shouldn’t necessarily assume that the best opportunities lie in our professional network as we might find our dream job through a personal, rather than professional network.

      I’m still one to keep my personal and private lives separate but the article is just something to consider.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/andy-lopata/should-you-separate-your-personal-and-professional-lives-on-social-networking-sites_b_4948832.html

      Like

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