Since the New Yorker published their now-famous cartoon in 1993 (Fleishman, 2000) the idea that no one knows who you are online has “run and run and run” (Cavna, 2013). Cartoonist Peter Steiner’s take on online identity marked the start of a debate between a single online identity or multiple.
A single online identity is a mirrored one, where online persona and activities match those offline. This would be true across platforms that you use, everything is concurrent and linked. This is easy to manage, as it doesn’t involve having to think about posts and activities. In this way, since an individual’s online identity will be similar to their offline identity, it is easier to trust that this individual is who they say they are. This does, however, have issues. If an individual has a single online identity and it is not tightly managed, it can damage their reputation, employment prospects or other aspects of their life. Although, some people believe in a different kind of single identity (Vronay, 2014). I talk a little bit more about this below.
An alternative is multiple online identities. This is effectively selecting what is relevant to a certain context and applying it. An example of this is using LinkedIn for professional updates, rather than personal, allowing a user to compartmentalise, and best promote themselves online. Separating your professional and private life is often touted as the best way to represent yourself online (BBC News, 2013). Having a blog where you represent yourself, and control your online identity is touted as a valuable tool too (TheEmployable, 2014). This, however, takes time for the user to consider material and a certain level of digital knowledge.
In conclusion, having multiple online identities offers a higher level of flexibility, but at cost. Until a single online identity can be centrally managed, manual multiple identities is the best way forward. There is also scope to introduce the issue of anonymous identities into the debate…(Krotoski, 2012)
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BBC News. (2013). Is your virtual self employable?. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-25217962/job-hunting-how-to-promote-yourself-online [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].
Cavna, M. (2013). ‘Nobody Knows You’re a Dog’: At 20, Web cartoon as true as ever.. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/comic-riffs/post/nobody-knows-youre-a-dog-as-iconic-internet-cartoon-turns-20-creator-peter-steiner-knows-the-joke-rings-as-relevant-as-ever/2013/07/31/73372600-f98d-11e2-8e84-c56731a202fb_blog.html?utm_term=.6f096fa2eb0a [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].
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 16 Apr. 2018].
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 16 Apr. 2018].
TheEmployable. (2014). How blogging can help you get a job. [online] Available at: http://www.theemployable.com/index.php/2014/10/28/blogging-can-help-get-job/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].
Vronay, D. (2014). The Online Identity Crisis. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/11/the-online-identity-crisis/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].