The web is playing an increasingly important role in the ways in which we communicate, engage, work and learn within 21st century society (Costa and Torres, 2011), bringing the idea of the ‘online identity’ to the forefront of contemporary living.
In his work, A Presentation of Self, Erving Goffman analysed how individuals perform to reflect a desirable (or perhaps idealised) image, referring to ‘front stage’ and ‘backstage’ behaviour, and this account can be applied to the topic of online identities (Bullingham and Vasconcelos, 2013).
But what is an online identity? And how is it created? I’ve created this presentation using Canva and information from internetsociety.org to provide an overview of online identities – online-identities-slideshow
Every move we make online contributes to the construction of an online identity, intentionally or not. As a result of this, many people are choosing to make multiple online identities, to tackle their fears of overexposure (Jarvis, 2011). They believe that these alternate identities are separate from their ‘authentic’ ones (Krotoski, 2012), and can be controlled more easily. However, anonymity on the web is becoming quite a luxury nowadays even for the average citizen (Costa and Torres, 2011), and digital literacy is becoming an absolute necessity… as tiny pieces of our real identities are left behind every time we use the web.
As a result, there are many pros and cons of having multiple online identities – I’ve made an infographic to present these in a concise manner, again using Canva.
Note my section on Catfishing. This is where I draw comparisons between Goffman’s ‘front stage’ and ‘backstage’ behaviour, and online identities, and also when considering ‘desirable’ profiles on accounts such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
I myself have seen first-hand what Catfishing does to someone, and the consequences of it (suspension from school!) and thus I believe that FAKE (not alternative) accounts are a negative thing. However, as mentioned, they are not actually illegal.
Therefore, I do not see multiple online identities as either good, or bad – they simply depend on the contextual situation: the intentions (and the digital literacy) of the user.
Also, the concept of digital identity can be considered to be fragmentary so its hard to class them collectively as either good or bad… my online identity as a 21 year old will be significantly different to that when I was 15 – my interests, online behaviours, and websites of choice will have changed and these could all be considered to be various online identities. Some of the online identities created will also be void by now, for example, an account made on a GCSE revision website.
Word Count: 436
Bullingham, L. and Vasconcelos, A.C. (2013) ‘“The presentation of self in the online world”: Goffman and the study of online identities’, Journal of Information Science, 3(1), pp. 101–112. doi: 10.1177/0165551512470051. [online] Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0165551512470051
Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Revista Educacao, Formacao & Technologias. [online] Available at: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126 [Accessed 22 Feb. 2017].
Flynn, E. (2016) What is catfishing and how do you know if it’s happening to you? Available at: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1754916/what-is-catfishing-and-how-do-you-know-if-its-happening-to-you/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
InternetSociety (2016) Online identity overview. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
Jarvis, J. (2011) One identity or more? — BuzzMachine. Available at: http://buzzmachine.com/2011/03/08/one-identity-or-more/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
Krotoski, A. (2012) Online identity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
Love, C. (2013) Make a digital footprint bulletin board – TechnoKids news and Blog posts. Available at: http://www.technokids.com/blog/computers-in-schools/make-a-digital-footprint-bulletin-board/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
Raines, A. (2016) Is catfishing illegal? Available at: https://www.quora.com/Is-catfishing-illegal (Accessed: 22 February 2017).