Online identity has been described as “accumulated electronic data that references us as an individual” (Warburton, 2010). Managing our online identity has become increasingly important (Craner et al, 2000) as the line between our online and offline identity is merging. A survey by Reppler found that of 300, 91% of employers admitted to using Facebook to job screen (Reppler, 2011), showing that how we come across online really does impact our offline life!
Different spaces on the internet provide different experiences and vary in privacy and audiences. Many wish to present themselves in different lights when participating in different parts of the online world, mirroring the real/offline world where we act and express different parts of our character to different audiences, i.e at work we are expected to speak more formally than with friends, perhaps. It could be influenced by whether one is creating public or private information, being more wary when posting on blogs or twitter which are widely public (Gannes, 2011).
However we ourselves are not solely accountable for our online identity (Costa & Torres, 2011), our friends, family and others we mix with online may publish information about us, thus making privacy hard to manage; an area in which some believe we need new skills (Alexander,2008). Many favor the use of false identities/pseudonyms, making it hard for people to find them online unless they want them to, though Facebook founder Zuckerberg has stated that he believes these behaviors “lack integrity”. And, it has been argued that “the value in creating a platform that provides confidence that a person is who they say they are…. Is critical to a social network’s success” (Krotoski, 2012). Those pretending to be someone they are not, can put users at risk, as can be seen in news stories of people meeting with people who are not who they said they were.Thus we are often made to verify certain information when ‘signing up’ to these social networks.
Executive director of ‘The Tor Project’ Lewman, and Poole from 4chan however, both believe in the importance of anonymity when online and criticize social networks and places which require authentication. Lewman argues that the unanonomity of Facebook makes it hard for those who want to socially reinvent themselves (Krotoski, 2012) and Pooles social networking site ‘4chan’ do not require us to ‘sign up’ meaning people can be more creative and open without fear of impacting offline relations.
There are arguments for and against the use of multiple identities. Depending on who you are and the purpose of your use of online spaces, I believe that multiple identities can be justified. I think the more important question is how we can manage our identities and privacy online more effectively.