Topic 2: Multiple Online Identities

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.
residents-vs-visitors

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.

pros-and-cons-of-identities

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 anonymityOf 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!


Word count: 411


References:

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).

 

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5 thoughts on “Topic 2: Multiple Online Identities

  1. Hi Scott, great post on this topic!

    Some great points you’ve raised on the anonymity vs authenticity debate. When you raise the problem of people creating multiple identities, do you think it causes an issue of too much authenticity, or too much anonymity? Personally, I feel like you could consider it both. By having partial identities split across multiple accounts, you are presenting further facets of your own personal identity. On the other hand, if these accounts are limited to their own sites, then it could be possible to raise your anonymity by limiting what people see with each partial identity. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this point!

    Also, what do you think of the loss of the ‘original usage of the web as a space for anonymity’? Do you think the web should be a place to let users be anonymous, or do you think that the increase in authenticity is a step in the right direction?

    Andy

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment Andy!

      To answer your first question, I would definitely say that being able to create multiple identities reduces rather than creates authenticity, as what is being portrayed is selected specifically for the audience. Thus, authenticity increased with online identities, but multiple identities may be reversing this trend.

      However, I hadn’t considered your other idea – that multiple identities also allows anonymity. I guess, essentially, this is what multiple identities and personas allows you to do – portray a side of you and hide another, creating some anonymity. Thank you for introducing me to this idea!

      To answer your next question, I believe we should still allow people to remain anonymous and ‘residents’ of the web if they want to (allows those who want the ‘original usage’), as long as we limit the ability for ‘trolling’. I thus believe the web should allow for both authenticity and anonymity at different scales, as long as monitored and safe!

      Liked by 1 person

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