Nowadays, having an online identity is simply unavoidable. It happens as soon as you create an email account, log into a fitness app, sign up to Facebook or even buy something from Amazon.

The definition of online identity is essentially the information that distinguishes you from everyone else and some of this information can change over time (Internetsociety.org, 2016). For instance, my online identity (particularly on Facebook) when I was 14 is completely different to what my online identity looks like now- in fact I hardly identify with my 14 year old self at all!

Interestingly we already have ‘multiple online identities’ without even trying. This sounds worrying but according to Internet Society all it means is ‘Every website you interact with has its own idea of your identity because each one you visit sees you and your characteristics differently’ – so more accuratly your ‘multiple online identities’ are actually multiple partial identites.

I believe there is definitely some benefit to having many partial identities; to be able to separate your personal life from professional, fresh start for divorcees (Krotoski, 2012) or simply because of ‘different sites, different audiences, different purposes’ (Engadget, 2016).

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My own graphic detailing the difference between multiple partial identities and persona.

However, there is a difference between having multiple partial identities and multiple separate identities or personas – I have illustrated the difference in the graphic above. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘identity is authenticity, that you are online who you are offline, and to have multiple identities is lacking in integrity’ (Krotoski, 2012). I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement. One of the more popular examples used to discredit multiple identities is the prevalence of catfishing – ‘lure (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona'(Urban Dictionary, 2016). Another example is the increase in anonymous cyberbullying.

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This graphic illustrates how social media and the ever increasing number of online identities has contributed to cyberbullying amongst teenagers (Lisi, 2016)

The debate about arguments for and against having more than one online identity is very much dependent on why you would have more than one identity/persona in the first place – Is it for illicit activity? I personally can’t see why someone would have another identity other than to use it for deceiving people.

However, having another partial online identity can be a very lucrative career – such as the rise of internet stars such as Zoella. There are even YouTube videos giving people advice on how to pursue this. This topic ties in nicely to my previous blog on Digitial Visitors and Residents. I wonder if the idea of multiple online identities/personas is linked to personality again.

Sources:

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, [online] 0(0), pp.47-53. Available at: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Engadget. (2016). Having multiple online identities is more normal than you think. [online] Available at: https://www.engadget.com/2016/03/04/multiple-online-identities/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Internetsociety.org. (2016). Online Identity Overview | Internet Society. [online] Available at: http://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Lisi, J. (2016). Does the Digital Classroom Increase Cyber-Bullying? | LiveTiles. [online] LiveTiles. Available at: https://www.livetiles.nyc/blog/does-the-digital-classroom-increase-cyber-bullying/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Urban Dictionary. (2016). Catfishing. [online] Available at: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Catfishing [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). 7 Steps To Building Your Online Identity. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UlcOX1fZW4&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

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