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)