Topic 2: Online Identities -When “I” becomes “We”

As Internet use became more and more popular, the number of identities created online also grew. In a previous blog post I mentioned the different ways in which people use the web, and how they would present themselves while using it. While people may choose to utilise the web in either a more personal or professional manner, they will be presenting an online identity to all those who go online.

When dealing with multiple identities, it often comes down to the different ways in which we represent ourselves. (Costa and Torres, 2011)  The most common differences would be, for example, having a personal identity versus a professional identity. Even on a personal level, you may sometimes want to have multiple identities for different audiences.

digital_identity_by_rainspeak-d4m28vz
Source: http://deepsoni.me/tech/online-identity-safe/

Having friends who cosplay, I often hear stories where they either don’t want work colleagues who are outside of the cosplay scene to see what they do; conversely, there are those who have people adding them on Facebook or sending messages to their dedicated cosplay Facebook page as if they were friends, despite never meeting them before. There are multiple other reasons for creating this extra identity, but this is generally the main one in order to maintain privacy.

apcnews2012protecting-your-online-identity-thumb_mainimage1-jpg1
Source: http://apcmag.com/protecting-your-online-identity.htm/

This is one way in which people would cite privacy as the reason why they have multiple online identities. However, is there a way in which having one online identity would actually increase security? Fahmida Rashid argues that by using your Facebook or Google account to sign into other sites that offer that option, it is actually safer than creating a new account and identity altogether. (Rashid, 2015) This may be true in that once you have an account that is on a secure platform such as Google, where you have customised security settings, it is much easier to use this one account for several sites. However, there is never a way to be 100% secure. In fact, developments over the years meant that anonymity became harder to achieve, one example being YouTube’s more restricted username policies.

The following video explores the evolution of Internet identities:

Source: YouTube

In essence, there are no reasons why you shouldn’t create multiple online identities, as often it is to do with your privacy. Personally, I feel that by separating your identities it is easier to maintain security, while also keeping a personal or professional profile. I will leave you all with this short documentary about online identity:

Source: YouTube

References:

Costa, Cristina, & Torres, Ricardo, (2011), “To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society” [Accessed 25th February]

CraftySorceress, “Good-Not good reasons to get a cosplay page” [Accessed 25th February]

Gibbs, Samuel, (2015), “The return of the YouTube troll: Google ends its ‘real name’ commenter policy”The Guardian , [Accessed 26th February]

Rashid, Fahmida Y., (2015), “Signing Into Websites With Google, Facebook is Good for Security” [Accessed 26th February]

 

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12 thoughts on “Topic 2: Online Identities -When “I” becomes “We”

  1. Hi Andy, thanks for your post! I enjoyed the personal touch added through your own and your friends’ experiences, and through the ‘Online Identity – An Internet Journey’ video which provided examples of relevant individual experiences / thoughts on the topic.

    I agree with your post and conclusion – that creating online identities can be useful, especially to separate professional and personal life, as long as we consider privacy. However, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the discussion around authenticity. Your other video ‘The Evolution of Internet Identity’ argues that there is limited chance for anonymity on the internet today and this is makes the internet a ‘better place’ as it forces you to ‘be yourself’. However, it doesn’t consider the ability for users to present unauthentic selves or personas. I’d be interested to hear your opinion on the topic, and of partial identities and personas generally (consider Garling, Krotoski and The Internet Society from my Topic 2 post).

    Word count: 160

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    1. Hi Scott!

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that the video doesn’t really touch on unauthentic selves; it’s definitely easy to create fake personas when signing up for websites! In that case I feel that there is still very much an issue of “the Internet troll”, if you will. Although, there have been ways to at least try to combat this, such as the YouTube name policies I mentioned in my post.

      As for partial identities and personas, I think it’s a very natural thing. Take real life for example, you might act in a different way depending on the people you are with; I would act differently around my family than I would my friends. Taking it into the online world, it is very much the same way. On LinkedIn, you might present a different persona than you would on Facebook or Reddit! What are your thoughts regarding partial identities?

      Andy

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      1. Hi again!

        I’m glad you’ve separated the discussion of authenticity into 2 parts: that of completely fake identities and trolling, and that of multiple partial identities – the former as frowned upon, and the latter as more up for debate.

        With regards to online partial identities, I completely agree with you that this is natural in real life relationships and situations and so should be allowed online too, and this is something I spoke about in my post. As you mentioned with LinkedIn, a professional / personal distinction is often necessary. However, a worry of mine is that, with regards to social media content and personas especially tied to personal accounts, we are increasingly becoming concerned with filtering and selecting key moments and attributes in and of our lives to share. This is a concern shared by others – Andrei’s blog post from this week introduced me to Beme, an app similar to Snapchat which uses certain techniques, such as offering no chance of editing, to increase authenticity.

        Do you welcome such changes and attempts?

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      2. Hmm, in a way I can appreciate the attempts at increasing the authenticity of social media posts. However, usually there may be a reason or a need for filtering out select moments to share on specific social medias. If you look at my reply to Jordan’s comment on this blog post, you’ll see that as an LGBT+ student, there’s a necessity for me to be able to filter out various posts on Facebook. Personally I think that if in the future, the changes to try and be more authentic would hinder any advancement in privacy, especially if it becomes a necessity to have to share everything that is around you whenever you post a photo. For example, if someone wanted to post a picture of themselves somewhere, and there way no way to blur street names or number plates etc, then it would be easy for people to track them down or find out other information.

        I hope you understand this jumble of thoughts! I think that generally, while authenticity is all well and good, attempts to make things 100% authentic will be met with apprehension, especially as the original purpose of the web was to provide anonymity, as mentioned in your own blog post!

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      3. I recognise the need for filtering and it is something I also do online. I am worried, however, that too much filtering and editing is reducing authenticity – rather that us heading for too much authenticity. In a quest for it, we may now be reversing it. I do understand your thoughts though, and I think we can both agree that everything is beneficial until it reaches an extreme or end of a spectrum e.g. complete anonymity and trolling, complete authenticity and privacy risks etc. Thanks!

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      4. That’s a good way of looking at it! I think that’s definitely something we both agree on. Thank you for the interesting discussion!

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  2. Hi Andy, I found your blog very thought provoking this week! Firstly, I would agree with you in the idea of professional vs personal identities when browsing this web as this is something I can personally relate to. In addition, I found it particularly interesting with the experience with your friends that even in the same personal internet use bracket there is still a want for different identities. Furthermore, the use of a personal perspective made your argument more convincing.

    In addition, I found you have a very good use of different forms of media with the use of images as well as videos. Would you personally say you agree with Rashid’s view of there being greater security through one online profile? And then would you argue that privacy or security be more more important when using online identities as even with an increased security, issues of privacy and certain audiences viewing media you don’t wish them to see will still be apparent.

    Finally, I found both the videos to be very interesting, particularly the one which highlighted the progression of online identities through time.
    I look forward to keeping up with your posts!
    Thanks,
    Jordan

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    1. Hi Jordan!

      Thanks for your comment. With Rashid’s view, I definitely think that there is reason behind his argument; if you use one profile where you know the security is maintained well, it would most likely be better than creating more accounts on sites where you don’t necessarily know the extent of their security. However, in terms of privacy vs security, I think it’s a matter of personal preference. As an LGBT+ student who’s only really out to my friends, I wouldn’t necessarily want my family stumbling onto Facebook events that might out me to them (hence the necessity of secret groups on Facebook)! Other people might have data and information that would be more protected by an increased security measure rather than privacy. In essence it’s a bit of a non-answer, saying that it’s all dependent on the person, but that’s how I see it!

      Andy

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