Online identity can be a problem. Much to the dismay of vast numbers of the online population, there is no real way to choose who sees which aspect of your online identity, which can be socially or professionally troublesome. So what is the solution? Should you create more than one online identity and flit between them when the need arises?
No, you shouldn’t. In my opinion, and experience, at least. But I’ll get to that.
The crux of the matter is that some people choose to share ‘compromising’ or irresponsible aspects of their social life on social media, which can in turn shape their own identity, and in today’s online world this can be immediately available to employers and other people whose regard for an individual can be influenced by their online presence.
This leads to the creation of a separate online identity. The online world is increasingly being used for unavoidable networking and self-promotion, and having a separate identity that embraces this can often provide some sort of solution to a complex problem, given that the real clash of interests for your digital identity are between professional and social desires.
There are obviously merits to embracing this mutual exclusivity. Having a very private ‘social’ online identity can allow for a more care-free attitude to self-censorship. Different people require different things from their online presence, and this is beautifully outlined by Soumitra Dutta, who observes the best social platforms and individual goals to achieve certain digital goals. It can be easy to tailor your online identity to your goals if you divide yourself between social and professional identities.
However, Dutta does not consider that it is certainly possible to competently manage your overall online identity without having to divide and conquer. It is my opinion that there is no way to truly be sure that your separate online identities remain as such, and that it really isn’t so hard to maintain a responsible digital persona. All of my own social media accounts and profile are well managed and portray me as I would hope to be seen in real life.
This slide show offers an insight into what I believe certain platforms are designed to be, and how I use them:
To avoid the need for multiple online identities I believe that education in online behaviour from a young age will be crucial as the digital world becomes increasingly synonymous with real life. With sites such as Reppler aiding in this process by monitoring your social media accounts for inappropriate content or security risks, there is no way to advocate the appropriation of multiple identities.
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, pp. 47–53.
Dutta, S. (2010) ‘What’s your personal social media strategy?’, Harvard Business Review, 88(11), pp. 127–30.
Krotoski, A. (2012) Online identity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important?, The Independent, 19 April. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity (Accessed: 25 October 2016).
GIF from tenor.com