Online Identities, What’s this all about then?
As defined by Oxford Dictionaries; an identity is ‘the characteristics determining who or what a thing or person is.’ In the ‘offline world’ these characteristics are relatively easy to identify, for example, one can see the hairstyle of somebody simply offline by merely looking at them, but online an avatar depicting someones face on their twitter may not be an accurate representation of themselves. But is this freedom to disguise your identity, or even having several different online identities how you wish, a good or bad thing?
In order to answer the question posed ‘Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity.’ I think first we need to understand why people feel the need to have not just the one online identity. I, for example, have 2 distinctly different online identities. Popular TV shows such as Catfish may paint this to be negative, that it somehow is dishonest or deceptive, but in my case it was quite the contrary, I used a pseudonym to remain anonymous when giving out tips for betting online via twitter. My second identity, if you can call it that, has quite the reputation for helping others to win money.
The pros of having two (or more) separate online identities are different for different people. Somebody using a dating app such as tinder, may use a photo of themselves from when they feel they looked more attractive in order to find love. Other’s may want simple anonymity. Other pros include being able to hide specific features of yourself. A great example of this would be to look at the contrast between people’s LinkedIn and Twitter Profiles. Showcasing your professional portfolio and posting up photos of a friend’s stag do are two things which can be expressed separately by the having two identities online.
Falling victim to cyber-fraud by ‘being duped by impostors’ (Krotoski, 2012) or cyber-bullying are main issues that have arisen over recent years. Having a different identity online can make it hard to track down the perpetrators and thus stop the bullying and this issue is a big concern for the police as shown in this video below.
I think the benefits of having multiple online identities does outweigh the cons for wider society. I think having a different online profile gives minorities and those who ordinarily feel inferior feel equal i.e disguising a disability online may enable someone to manoeuvre around the prejudice that may exist offline.
Cyber Bullying – The Police Perspective. Section from Anti bullying resource
Magnetic Pictures for West Midlands Police [Accessed 28th October 2016] (Youtube Video Link)
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 28th October 2016]
The Economist (2012) Not A Dog http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21571447-businesses-not-just-governments-have-role-play-helping-web-users-prove-their [Accessed 29th October 2016] (Author name not available)
8 thoughts on “What’s this all about then? Topic 2: Managing your online identity”
I really enjoyed reading this post and it came across to me that you have had allot of experience in this field.
I liked how you related the topic to your own experience of your betting tips. I am curious to know your reasoning behind remaining anonymous on twitter however? Is it possible that you didn’t want your professional or social life effected by the actions you took through your second identity?
Also I am curious to know why you believe having “different online profiles” can help enable minorities to “maneuver around offline prejudices”?
Hi Tom, thanks for your feedback. To be honest, the reason for remaining anonymous on twitter is to add a sense professionalism by keeping it totally separate from my person twitter where images of me fooling around etc are. Furthermore, dealing with people who risk money based simply on my opinion could lead to a backlash if somebody lost a large sum and blamed me.
In answer to your last point, having different online profiles can altogether eliminate the issue causing the prejudice altogether, for example, ageism. Suppose somebody asks a question on a forum, when answers to questions are posted online, you don’t have to disclose your age (or skin colour, disability status, sexuality etc for that matter) to the person who asked question. They judge you simply on your feedback. Where as in real life your opinion may not be deemed valid simply because you are young/old. I hope you understand my point clearer when explained with an example.
Hi zac, I like how you have addressed both sides to the debate clearly with evidence for each aspect. Moreover your personal experience in having a motive for a different identity is similar to my own. I was wondering what you though the direction of the debate is going to go, having said that cyber crime (fraud and harassment) have risen their heads in recent history. Do you think that it is something which will increase or decrease? Following on from this do you think that the rise or decline in cyber crime with make users more or less likely to have a single online identity? Look forwards to hearing your thoughts.
Hi Alex, Thank you for your feedback, I personally believe that although the authorities are trying to prevent cyber-bullying and taking the issue more seriously (as shown in the video I linked in my blog) I think the issue will continue to grow and a shocking 52% of young people have report cyber-bullying at some level (nobullying.com, 2014). I’d like to think the police would try and tackle this issue but I find that hard to believe as technology is ever changing and bullies develop new ways of bullying. In regards to fraud, I think that your average Joe using the internet nowadays is a more ‘savvy’ than 10 years ago and should be wiser to scams than before. That said, scams are getting more and more sophisticated.
To answer your last question, I think that people will use multiple online identities more and more largely to separate their social and professional lives online, but I wouldn’t say this is correlated (positively or negatively) with an increase in cyber-crime. It would be interesting to look up some stats about that though.
Here is a link about the bullying statistics I mentioned: https://nobullying.com/cyber-bullying-statistics-2014/
You raise some interesting comments and I agree that the use of multiple online identities has a strong chance of growing. I have linked some table statistics on twitter using your handle and if you have a spare 10minutes would be interested in your thoughts on their blog posts.
Hi Alex, I read through them last night. Interesting stuff, not so sure about their data collection methods though. Thought provoking nonetheles. I retweeted the link for everyone else on the module to see.
Love the opening of your blog, really caught my interest and spurred me to read further. You have argued your case for both the pros and cons, I also like the way you turned the con of cyber bullying into a pro of having multiple identities so that individuals can ‘disguising a disability’ online.
Do you not think that cyber bullying anonymously is a great concern, and is in-fact a greater concern to society? The article below is an example of two victims.
I really do understand your pro points of multiple identities and I completely agree with them, however I am thinking from a perspective if I was the victim. Would it be fair someone is getting away with it due to advances in technology? Do you think there is a middle compromise of pros and cons, and not just one outweighing the other?
Patrick Sawer. (13 Nov 2011). Cyberbullying victims speak out: ‘they were anonymous so they thought they could get away with it’. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8885876/Cyberbullying-victims-speak-out-they-were-anonymous-so-they-thought-they-could-get-away-with-it.html. Last accessed 02/11/16.
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