Thinking back to Topic 1’s Digital Resident / Visitor spectrum, your position is likely to affect your understandings of online privacy and identities, the focus of this post.
Increasingly, users of the web, especially those involved in the ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘network societies’, are acknowledging the importance of a digital and professional footprint, online collaboration, and having an identity online. (Costa and Torres, 2011).
Fragmenting an identity through various accounts and passwords is advocated by The Internet Society as replicas can reduce the risk of identity theft. However a problem arises when we look beyond multiple accounts to the creation of multiple identities. Just like how our interactions differ in the real world, we can form partial online identities and personas created for specific purposes. This can be exploited as whole new identities can be created or stolen,’parallel lives’ set up though your partial identity.
Others argue that oversharing is problematic because there is too much authenticity. Users of 4CHAN believe that the consistent requirement of account making has taken away from the original usage of the web as a space for anonymity. Of course, anonymity brings the risks of ‘trolling’, something 4CHAN has not escaped (Dale Beran (2017) – suggested by Sarah Hewitt on Twitter).
However, having multiple identities doesn’t have to be problematic. Nicole Lee, a blogger for EndGadget, explains that she uses her various personas depending on her audience- various Twitter accounts for various themes, Facebook for the family, Instagram for close friends, etc. One account confines, especially as different websites provide different means of creating and displaying identities and content. This can often be seen through a professional/ personal usage differentiation of identities. Garling argues this sort of identity splitting is normal and reflects everyday life- we change our behaviours and professionality depending on our company. Why should our online identities differ?
If we look deeper into the discussion, some argue that this is having an impact in real life. Ludovico explores the compulsiveness and temporality of social media, suggesting we frequently update our now ‘divisible’ self, our experiences online influencing our personas which now advocate for multiple personas offline. Both suggest authenticity in real and online life may be decreased by having these identities.
I’ll leave you with Jim Blascovich (2011) who explores the impacts further in his Ted Talk video, as he suggests our perceptions of reality are being blurred. I welcome a debate around both multiple online identities and authenticity, so comment your thoughts!
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Beran, D. (2017) 4chan: The skeleton key to the rise of trump. Available at: https://medium.com/@DaleBeran/4chan-the-skeleton-key-to-the-rise-of-trump-624e7cb798cb#.1ovfftr30 (Accessed: 23 February 2017).
Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011) ‘To be or not to be, the importance of digital identity in the networked society’, Educação, Formação & Tecnologias – ISSN 1646-933X, 0(0), pp. 47–53.
Garling, C. (2016) Having multiple online identities is more normal than you think. Available at: https://www.engadget.com/2016/03/04/multiple-online-identities/ (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: 21 February 2017).
Ludovico, A. (multiple) identities in social networks. Available at: http://www.springerin.at/dyn/heft_text.php?textid=2534&lang=en (Accessed: 21 February 2017).
TEDx Talks and Blasovich (2011) Digital freedom: Virtual reality, avatars, and multiple identities: Jim Blascovich at TEDxWinnipeg. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgEA4iM8CHc (Accessed: 23 February 2017).
The Internet Society (2017a) Protecting your identity. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/protecting-your-identity (Accessed: 20 February 2017).
The Internet Society (2017b) Protecting your privacy. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/protecting-your-privacy (Accessed: 20 February 2017).
The Internet Society (no date) Online Identity Overview. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview#overlay-context (Accessed: 20 February 2017).