As we interact with different websites, each has a different perception of who we are. These perceptions are referred to as partial identities – subsets of our true identity. Take Amazon for example who store cookies to build an identity through the products we buy. This information is then used for our benefit, for example by advertising on Facebook.
In addition, we also present personas online. These are partial identities which are instead constructed by ourselves.
Example 1: When creating a Facebook account I used personal characteristics such as my name and date of birth.
Example 2: When creating a Reddit account I constructed an ‘anonymised’ persona with a pseudonym.
Here I presented two different personas, I feel the reason for this can be explained with notions of presentation (the persona we portray online) and reputation (how other people’s judgements influence our behaviour) as outlined by Costa and Torres (2011). The perceived reputation of our behaviour can in fact dictate how we present ourselves online. On Facebook, I chose to use personal information such as my name as I wanted to connect with friends. On Reddit, I used a pseudonym, mainly because everyone else did. The judgement I may have faced if I had gone against the norms of the community, impacted the way I presented myself.
Multiple online identities raise questions over authenticity, causing social media services such as Facebook to develop strategies to breed trust.
Video based on article found here
Here Facebook felt DJ wasn’t portraying his true identity and so shut the profile down. In any case, should it have mattered if he was using a different online identity? I’ve outlined the pros and cons of having more than one online identity below.
I support multiple online identities, though I can understand why Facebook consider a single, authentic profile important. Additionally, I understand that multiple online identities can bring issues (see Justine Sacco’s story). However I feel users need to be educated on how their actions online can directly affect their lives offline rather than being limited in how they can behave.
The approach to stick to a single identity is restrictive. Someone may be reluctant to share information through an authentic identity on Facebook but feel happy to do so on Reddit. Surely the analysis of what a person says can paint a truer picture of their identity?
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Costa, C. & Torres, R., 2011. To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias-ISSN 1646-933X, pp. 47-53. Available at: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126
Krotoski, A., n.d. Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity
Understanding your Online Identity: An Overview of Identity. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/sites/default/files/Understanding%20your%20Online%20Identity%20An%20Overview%20of%20Identity.pdf
Facebook shut me down because my name is DJ: Disabled man left ‘isolated’ after social media row. Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/facebook-shut-down-because-name-9525251
Feature Image: Made with wordclouds (http://www.wordclouds.com/) using text from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity
Video made using Powtoon (https://www.powtoon.com)
Pros & Cons image made using Canva (https://www.canva.com/)