When I post on twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram – a snapshot in time is all you see. A reflection of the current mood, or expression opinion about current affairs and so on. Is that necessarily who I am? The summation of all my social media posts converged into one identity, or are those separate from who I truly am, and are just the reflection of fleeting opinions and views held at one minute moment in time and never again thereafter?
For starters, let’s talk about the fact that in my profile pictures typically, I am smiling. This in itself is not a reflection of my personality at all times as one might expect. But does that mean I’m not happy, or I’m just pretending? The identity we portray online does not inherently mean we are all lying or attempting to appear as something other than what we truly are, but in the same breath – does our online personality or identity always reflect the complete truth about our actual identity. This piktochart shows some of the different ways in which I relate to online communities, or more specifically what sort of identity I am portraying through various platforms.
These tweets are a few perfect examples of how differently you can express yourself, and how that creates your identity online, whether it be personal posts or a post referencing solemn news.
Other examples of my constructed online identity could be my profile pictures.
My Facebook profile pictures range from comical to serious, to ones that aren’t even of myself. Whether this is to create a sense of anonymity or simply for a laugh, the fact remains that the way I display myself online has it limitations and it’s uses, and they often occur at the same time. For example, this profile picture;
This profile picture is exactly the kind I would post if I was trying to be more anonymous, or for comic relief.The limitations of this however are various. Depending on if I am looking for employment, a potential employer may choose to look at my Facebook or twitter profiles in order to assess me (albeit briefly). If they are unable to find my profile, they may have a difficult time completing their assessment.
As well as this, friends, family and other acquaintances may find it difficult to get in contact with me, if they are unable to either find my profile, or if I have my profile on private and only choose to add those I want to. While the increased privacy may lead to complications, it is one of the reasons that Facebook encourages you to post profile pictures, so that you’re easier to identify, and easier to get in contact with. While this ins’t necessarily a negative aspect of Facebook, it does mean that you will have less privacy than those who choose not to upload identifiable profile pictures.
One of the best parts of online identity, at least from my experience – is the shared enjoyment of various things, such as movies, games, television shows, artists and so on. The great aspect of this, is that through Facebook, twitter, Instagram and various other online platforms, you are able to find people, or groups with similar interests, and broaden your online community involvement, such as I have done. Some examples of this from my own experience would be communities or forums (on Facebook) used to discuss, buy, swap and overall enjoy the experience of owning lightsabers from the Star Wars franchise (either based on movie-accurate ones or custom – made, single – production ones.
The following images are two of the groups I am part of, due to my mutual interest and enjoyment of Star Wars.
In all honesty, there are significant improvements that I could make, to give myself both a larger, more consistent and public identity, however it is my belief that these are only limitations if that is your intention. Privacy online and public information are things often taken for granted or straight-out ignored in today’s tech-centric society.
The fact that my online identity is limited by the spaces I choose to occupy (Facebook for example) or the communities that I am involved in, only goes to show that not only do the spaces you occupy create your identity, but the most important factor in your creation of an online identity is the content. An example of this would be if all of my Facebook posts were politically based, it would then be a fair assumption that I am fairly politically-minded and speak about politics often. This is where online identity becomes confusing, as the only things that are seen by anyone other than yourself are the things that you choose to share with other people.
My online identity could do with some improvement however, as I do believe the focus of the majority of content that I post is whimsical and light-hearted in nature, whereas I would perhaps like to have more mature conversations, more valued opinions and the ability to connect with a wider range of people. This can be achieved in a multitude of ways, however I will not list them all here. A few of these may be an increase in posts, perhaps an increased effort in keeping up-to-date with the opinions or news articles (other than news related to entertainment) and various other methods of maintaining a more constant online presence or identity.
However real the limitations are, at least in my personal experience, I have good reasons for my somewhat plain, or more accurately private online identity. One of the biggest reasons for this is online identity theft. It may seem comical to some, however it is a very real issue and one that I have had experience dealing with. The fact that people are so willing to put their whole lives on the internet has lead to some incredibly difficult times with friends of mine and occasionally family members as well. There are several articles which discuss this, as well as exploring the idea that online identity is a double-edged sword – in regards to the fact that sharing too much of your life will be a very real security risk to yourself and others.
A few sources that explore the issue of identity can be found in;
Andres, C 2002, Designing Online Identities : Successful Graphic Strategies For Brands On The Web, n.p.: Gloucester, Mass. : Rockport Publishers, 2002., DEAKIN UNIV LIBRARY’s Catalog, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 December 2016.
Cover, Ra 2015, Digital Identities : Creating And Communicating The Online Self, n.p.: London, England : Academic Press is an imprint of Elsevier, , DEAKIN UNIV LIBRARY’s Catalog, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 December 2016.
Online Identity Theft. [Electronic Resource] 2009, n.p.: Paris : OECD, c2009., DEAKIN UNIV LIBRARY’s Catalog, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 December 2016.
PINTO, D, REALE, G, SEGABINAZZI, R, & VARGAS ROSSI, C 2015, ‘Online identity construction: How gamers redefine their identity in experiential communities’, Journal Of Consumer Behaviour, 14, 6, pp. 399-409, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 December 2016.
Raun, T 2016, Out Online. [Electronic Resource], n.p.: Abingdon : Taylor and Francis, 2016., DEAKIN UNIV LIBRARY’s Catalog, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 December 2016.