What is in an identity? How we represent ourselves online has for many years been in the public eye – stretching as far back to 1993 when Peter Steiner drew a cartoon depicting a dog using a computer: “On the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog” (Fleishman, 2000).
This idea of representing yourself in an alternate way to your real-world identity has sparked many debates as to whether anonymity or authenticity should take priority when using the internet (Krotoski, 2012). Broadly speaking, there are two approaches which can be deployed when considering your online profile, each with benefits and drawbacks. The first is to have a unified, single online identity; the second to have multiple identities for personal and professional use.
There are some strong motivators to a single online identity. Indeed, Google and Facebook are pushing for this – the unification of the offline and the online self. The connections that can be made online through such services can be invaluable socially and offers a look into why Facebook is such a huge platform. Having all accounts connected in the online world can allow for better integration of services across an individuals life. However, the most significant drawback is the lack of separation between professional and personal in this scenario. This article (Reputation Defender, 2016) goes into great depth as to some of the reasons it is important to avoid having too much content openly available with one identity.
The negatives of multiple identities online – hard to keep track of accounts, care to differentiate between uploaded content – are far outweighed by the myriad of benefits. A separation of personal and professional has often been quoted as important for employability (TheEmployable, 2014), as well as ensuring privacy online. Indeed, academics have stated the importance of maintaining a healthy professional identity online (Jones and Swain, 2012).
A useful Powtoon Video (Pitman, 2015) summarises the key concepts:
Word Count: 309
Fleishman, G. (2000). Cartoon Captures Spirit of the Internet. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/14/technology/cartoon-captures-spirit-of-the-internet.html [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].
Jones, T. and Swain, D. (2012). Managing your online professional identity. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 38(2), pp.29-31.
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 21 Apr. 2018].
Pitman, S. (2015). One person, multiple identities – the pros and cons of having multiple online identities – UOSM 2033. [online] UOSM 2033. Available at: https://blog.soton.ac.uk/uosm2033/2015/topic-2-2015/2015/10/one-person-multiple-identities-the-pros-and-cons-of-having-multiple-online-identities-2/ [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].
Reputation Defender (2016). Top 10 Reasons to Keep Your Personal Information Private | ReputationDefender. [online] ReputationDefender. Available at: https://www.reputationdefender.com/blog/privacy/top-ten-reasons-keep-your-personal-information-private [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].
TheEmployable (2014). How blogging can help you get a job. [online] TheEmployable. Available at: http://www.theemployable.com/index.php/2014/10/28/blogging-can-help-get-job/ [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].