Topic 2

Topic 2: Reflection

Something that struck me whilst reading other posts was how differently people interpreted the concept of multiple online identities. Catherine’s comment highlighted that in my post, I perceived multiple identities as adapting one’s behaviour to suit different social media platforms and audiences. In contrast, others saw it as having more than one profile within a social media platform, such as separate Twitter accounts for personal and professional. Upon reflection, my online identity can be perceived from both perspectives.

My Online Identity
Figure 1. My online identity – multiple or single?

Whilst my post focused mainly on the authenticity vs. anonymity debate, others explored different aspects, such as digital footprints. Jordan’s post emphasised the fact that many services on the web collect personal data even when we do not actively give out information, such as Google searches or browsing on Amazon. This sparked a discussion between myself and Carolina, and whilst we acknowledged the benefits of this from a marketing perspective, it’s clear that digital footprints can compromise user privacy.

To take this point further, Catherine explored the idea of data mining, which raises a whole host of issues to do with security. It is about getting the balance between feeling in control of personal data, and allowing data mining services to use personal data to benefit society. For example, to track disease outbreaks or identify threats of terrorism. These ideas made me question whether we can ever be totally anonymous on the web, even with multiple online identities. Taking the views of my peers into account, I have provided a brief summary of the pros and cons below.

Pros and Cons
Figure 2. Pros and cons of multiple online identities

Overall, I feel that Topic 2 has encouraged me to venture out of my comfort zone and has given me the confidence to have my own take on the issues involved. Not only has my understanding of the topic greatly improved, but through the creation of visual materials I have also gained competence in my use of graphic design tools. Below are some of the key learning points I have taken from this topic.

Managing Your Online Identity
Figure 3. Managing your online identity (click to view slideshow on Prezi)

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Carolina’s post

Mark’s post


Internet Society. How can I manage my digital footprints?

Marcotte, B. (2017). Millions of tweets are a gold mine for data mining. University of Rochester.

Shaw, J. (2016). Twitter bans intel agencies from using terror detecting data mining service. Hot Air.

Figure References

Figure 1: Self-produced using Canva.

Figure 2: Self-produced using Piktochart.

Figure 3: Self-produced using Prezi.

Topic 2

Topic 2: Online Identities

Your ‘online identity’ is the sum of your characteristics and interactions with the web (Internet Society). This is not limited to social media, but also includes aspects of online shopping, banking, gaming etc. An online identity is made up of several partial identities, or personas, that represent different characteristics based on information that ourselves and others provide. These concepts are summarised below.

Figure 1. Summary of online identities.

As Blascovich (2011) expressed in his TED Talk, most of us have multiple online identities made up of several different personas, an idea he referred to as ‘fluid identities’. For example, I tend to use Facebook to keep up with friends and family, Twitter for current affairs, Instagram for all things aesthetically pleasing and Snapchat for the boring bits in between. Although my audiences in each case overlap to some extent, they are not the same, and thus I adapt my personas to suit. Whilst at first glance the idea of multiple identities may appear deceptive or manipulative, it is a multifaceted issue that has sparked a huge debate among online communities (Krotoski, 2012).

Authenticity vs. Anonymity Debate
Figure 2. Opinions of key influencers in the ‘authenticity vs. anonymity’ debate.

An obvious benefit of having multiple online identities is the ability to freely express personal content, whilst still having control over your professional appearance (Henry, 2012). This keeps your friends from making fun of your CV and prevents your boss from seeing those compromising night-out photos. Furthermore, multiple identities are beneficial for brands that wish to tailor their content to specific platforms and audiences. Multiple identities also allow for anonymity, enabling those who wish to hide an aspect of their identity to do so. For example, many writers and bloggers use pseudonyms in order to express themselves without being judged and to maintain a sense of privacy (Faith et al., 2011).

However, with regards to authenticity, having multiple identities may lead people to think you are untrustworthy or that you have something to hide. Due to the control we have over what we share, our online identities are increasingly curated, widening the gap between our online and offline selves (Casserly, 2011). The anonymity that appeals to many online users also creates an environment where cyberbullies, scammers and sexual predators can thrive. An example of this includes the hacking scandal where indecent images of celebrities were retrieved from Apple iCloud and subsequently posted on 4chan, an anonymous image sharing forum (Buchanan, 2015).

Overall, having online identities, whether one or multiple, authentic or anonymous, depends on our motivations and goals for using the web. Whichever side of the debate we stand, being aware of the benefits and drawbacks of multiple identities is important in our navigation of the digital world (Costa & Torres, 2011).

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Blascovich, J. (2011). Digital freedom: Virtual reality, avatars, and multiple identities: Jim Blascovich at TEDxWinnipeg. YouTube.

Buchanan, R. T. (2015). Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leak sparks fear of more celebrity hackings: ‘A flagrant violation of privacy’. The Independent.

Casserly, M. (2011). Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me. Forbes.

Costa, C., & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação e Tecnologias, 47-53.

Faith, J., Siren, S., Marks, A., & Lee, A. (2011). The Pros & Cons of Your Online Identity. Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Henry, A. (2012). Should I Keep My Personal and Professional Identities Completely Separate Online? LifeHacker.

Internet Society. Online Identity Overview.

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian.

Figure References

Figure 1: Self-produced using Slideshare.
Figure 2: Self-produced using Piktochart and the following images: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Allen, Christopher Poole, Andrew Lewman, Michael Heyward.