The internet has become an indispensable facet of daily life, especially in the last decade. This has led to web users, whether consciously or unconsciously, creating what are called online identities.
WHAT IS AN ONLINE IDENTITY?
As a whole, your identity sums up all of the characteristics (i.e. hometown, date of birth etc.) that make you who you are. When you’re online, every website that you visit gathers some information about your identity and your interactions which comprise your online identity (Internet Society).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE MULTIPLE ONLINE IDENTITIES?
Websites can require different information and be used differently (e.g. interactions on Tumblr may not be the same as interactions on LinkedIn), so no one online identity can fully represent a person. The information on these websites reflect an aspect of your full identity, creating several partial identities that are called personas.
Marwick (2005) defines online identity as creating a separation between our lives online and our ‘real life’ that we carry out offline. However, since the internet has become so pervasive, in exploring the benefits and drawbacks of having multiple identities, it may be more beneficial to look at the difference between our “private online self versus the public online self” (Gannes, 2011).
Figure 2: Visual representation of the public online self vs. the private online self
As touched on in Topic 1, the context in which we are using the internet, perhaps as a ‘visitor’ or ‘resident’ (White and Cornu, 2011) can determine how many online identities we have, if any at all. Beyond exploring its purpose, is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of having more than one online identity.
I think having more than one online identity is necessary, especially to separate my professional and personal life on the web. Once again, context is key in determining whether having more than one digital identity is positive or negative. For example, a young internet user (i.e. in primary school) having several online identities for both personal and professional/educational purposes may not be as positive as a university student having the same number of personas online. The internet is frequently used for educational purposes, whereby young people make accounts on online learning sites, which as we’ve learnt will store their information and interactions. Younger internet users may not know the risks of their information being spread so vastly on the internet, which is a contextual point that should be considered in determining the benefits of having multiple online identities.
Word Count: 400
Casserly, M. (2011, January 26). Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me. Forbes [Accessed: 25 February 2017]
Costa, C., & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 47-53.
Gannes, L. (2011, January 1). The Social Web’s Big New Theme for 2011: Multiple Identities for Everyone!. All Things D [Accessed: 25 February 2017]
Marwick, A. E. (2005). Selling your self: Online identity in the age of a commodified internet (Doctoral dissertation, University of Washington)
Online Identity Overview: Internet Society [Accessed: 25 February 2017]
Krotoski, A. (2012, April 19). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? Guardian. [Accessed: 25 February 2017]
White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). [Accessed: 10 February 2017]
[CNN] (2015, April 16) Online identity victim: Digital thief stole my face [Video File]. [Accessed: 25 February 2017]
Featured image, Figure 2 & Presentation: Self-produced