In this week’s post, I will discuss multiple online identities; I acknowledge that this topic is broad in scope and is also akin to privacy and fake identities. However, the aim of my post is to highlight the benefits of having the appropriate number of online profiles and underline where multiple identities can equally become obsessive and counterproductive.
(Butler, 2010) theory of Performative Identity (1) is a great premise for exploring online identity in further depth. This theory illustrates that social networking is a platform where identity is established and maintained; additionally, identity is an ongoing process that is consistently being built. Correspondingly, the constant development of identity has resulted in the formation of partial online identities where, people adopt strategies to control disclosure of the multiple facets of their character. Frequently, this includes creating separate personal and professional online profiles such as Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for work colleagues as demonstrated in Figure 1. However, in extreme cases several personal profiles are created on one platform to accommodate different audiences. This is supported by research which found that participants divided qualities of themselves to conform and fit in online (2); suggesting that multiple online personas are adopted because of the desire to always project the best version of the self. Notwithstanding, this leads me to question whether social networking has complicated the concept of identity? which will be further explored in Table 1.
Figure 1. Displays my multiple online identities
|Multiple online identities|
Table 1. displays the pros and cons of multiple identities
Furthermore, by encouraging people to adopt several online personas, it makes it difficult to detect authenticity. Although, Facebook include using a fake name as an abuse to their statement of rights and responsibility (3) catfishing has become an increasing issue; especially with greater awareness brought to it through the mainstream TV show Catfish. In contrast, merging online identities to a single profile may also propose problems which can compromise career prospects. This is evidenced by the case of Paris Brown (4), the UKs first youth police and crime commissioner; who shortly resigned from the post after the criticism received from the racist and homophobic tweets that she had previously made. Although, such language is unacceptable in any circumstance, this example demonstrates why having separate online identities can be of benefit.
Overall, there is an undeniable logic to multiple online identities; we are not one-dimensional beings and as the offline and online world assimilate the various facets of our personalities should be reflected. However, this discourse also presents limitations where the obsession of creating several online profiles to appeal to multiple audiences seems a lot like Harry Potters: Lord Voldemort who breaks his soul into fragile pieces through his attempt at immortality (5). Therefore, the number of online identities should be kept to a controllable minimum to fully exploit its benefits.
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1. Butler, J. (2010) ‘PERFORMATIVE AGENCY’, Journal of Cultural Economy, 3(2), pp. 147–161. doi: 10.1080/17530350.2010.494117.
2. Naegele, K.D. and Goffman, E. (1956) ‘The presentation of self in everyday life’, American Sociological Review, 21(5), p. 631. doi: 10.2307/2089106.
4. BBC (2013) Paris Brown: Kent youth PCC resigns after Twitter row. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-22083032 (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
5. Casserly, M. (2011) Multiple personalities and social media: The many faces of me. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/01/26/multiple-personalities-and-social-media-the-many-faces-of-me/2/#414169954573 (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
Figure 1. self-produced on Microsoft Powerpoint
Powerpoint produced on Google Slides
Definitions: Internetsociety (2012) An overview of identity. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/sites/default/files/Understanding%20your%20Online%20Identity%20An%20Overview%20of%20Identity.pdf (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAZCx-N1dss