Question for Topic 2: Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity.
The discussion outlining the arguments for and against having more than one online identity is extremely vast. This is owing to how our relationship with the Internet is ever changing, mobile devices, wireless connectivity, and ‘our increasing virtual presence across multiple social media services have all but collapsed the boundary between being online or offline.’ Some individuals are considered to ‘reside’ online. (See previous post)
‘The Internet is not a set of static objects but a dynamic network of connected, interacting subjects.’ It is this issue of interaction that has raised the question of online ‘authenticity’ or online ‘anonymity’ in relation to digital identity.
What people are saying: Authenticity
- According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Richard Allan, its director of policy in Europe, ‘a critical mass of people only want online interactions supported by ‘authentic’ identity.’
- Cyberbullying, racism and hate speech are rampant on the internet, ‘Google argues that people behave better when they use their real names.’
- The Independent’s journalist Alex Masters states: ‘bullying, racism, accountability, impersonation of an individual or individuals, even stock market manipulation […] are all bi-products of a digital world occupied by anonymous individuals who believe they are unidentifiable.’
- Masters continues: ‘The rise of identity-centric social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, make it increasingly more difficult to live an anonymous life on the Internet. These platforms are inherently social and rely on you, as a user, to establish a network of friends and acquaintances. This effectively creates an online version of your real life that relies on your true identity in order to function.’
What people are saying: Anonymity
- The Guardian journalist Alex Kratoski remarks: ‘pseudonymous users often identify themselves in different social networks using the same account name. But because their handles aren’t based on real names, they can deliberately delineate their identity accordingly, and reassert anonymity if they wish.’
- Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project, hopes to re-anonymise the web. “The ability to be anonymous is increasingly important because it gives people control, it lets them be creative, it lets them figure out their identity and explore what they want to do, or to research topics that aren’t necessarily ‘them’ and may not want tied to their real name for perpetuity.”
- The Independent’s Alex Masters: ‘Being anonymous on the web also makes it possible for people to discuss sensitive subjects, such as medical conditions, physical abuse and sexual orientation, without these actions affecting their everyday lives in a negative or potentially harmful way.’
I would like to argue that it is possible to have multiple online identities whilst maintain a level of ‘authenticity’. Multiple identities allow you to filter your online ‘content’ and have control over what is relevant and deemed acceptable for each audience. It gives you further control in an aggregated feed based online network to discern which version of yourself to present or allow access to. When remarking on which version of yourself I am merely speaking in terms of a ‘Professional’ and ‘Personal or Social’ capacity, not in terms of a disassociated escapable pseudonym.
On a personal level, I have been gravitating to but in some respects forced to adopt the use of my real name online by ‘megaliths’ of the web Facebook and Google. ‘Internet giants Facebook and Google want to link online and offline personas – while other social sites prefer people to play with the freedom of pseudonyms.’ As a result I now opt for ‘Alysia.Wildman’ as a frequent username and as the handle of my email address. That is not without admitting that prior to the existence of firstname.lastname@example.org – there was a much more embarrassing email address in existence.
Moreover, I must note my frequent use of ‘Thoughtlessjoll’ as an alias; however, in instances where this username is present it is accompanied by my real name on Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, Letterboxd and so on… It is tethered to so many of my online accounts that I dare not change it for the colossal upheaval it would cause. I share the view that ‘The emergence of single sign-on plugins, such as ‘Facebook Connect’, have rapidly increased the adoption of real world identities across the web.’ As they enable simple rapid sign up and eradicate the need to memorise dozens of usernames and passwords.
To conclude, I am beginning to believe that if you’re not willing to put your name to it on the web, then perhaps you shouldn’t be looking at or creating said content. Moreover, It is possible with the use of privacy settings to streamline your ‘authentic’ online presence for your respective audience. I share the belief that ‘authenticity’; use of your real identity on the Internet can reduce cyber bullying and racism online as people can be held accountable for their actions and words. It introduces repercussions to the world of the web, and perhaps those consequences are needed because after all – we are in the age of ‘living’ online.
Doctorow, Cory, ‘Google Plus forces us to discuss identity’ [Date Accessed: 20/02/2014: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2011/aug/30/google-plus-discuss-identity]
Krotoski, Alex, ‘Online Idenitity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important?’ [Date Accessed: 20/02/2014: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity]
Masters, Alex, ‘Identity on the Internet: the pros and cons of anonymity’ [Date Accessed: 23/02/2014: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/09/19/identity-on-the-internet-the-pros-and-cons-of-anonymity/]
Warburton, Steven, ‘Rhizome: Digital Identity Matters’, (London: Kings College London, 2010) [Date Accessed: 19/02/2014: http://digitaldisruptions.org/rhizome/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/rhiz08_DigitalIdentityMatters.pdf]