Some individuals enjoy the benefits of a strong online identity whilst others worry about the information that may be publicly available. Our online identities however are based on information that we have provided through social media, our browsing history and information that we have given out through online forms. This identity may not reflect the characteristics that we may have in real life.
With the world moving online it is very unlikely for an individual not to have any form of online presence. The most visible identity is that from social media platforms and information that we purposefully make available on the Internet. Thomas (2007) looks in detail at the way in which youths build their identities online and discovers large variances between different backgrounds and as such an online identity may not give an accurate impression of an individuals real-world character. This is something that should be considered strongly when an online identity is defined as the sum of your characteristics.
With over 37% of US employers screening candidates with the use social media sites, for instance Facebook and Twitter, it’s becoming ever more important to create the right impression. As a consequence there’s been a significant rise in the number of dual online identities. This is where an individual will create several accounts to deliver differing content for certain groups to see. On the other hand, sites such as Path and LinkedIn are aimed a creating a professional social environment. This doesn’t mean that employers won’t look at sites such as Facebook however professional profiles can help to form a positive opinion. These sites however are an invaluable tool for communication and although are important for our online identity they can also help to boost our sense of self esteem as found by Barker (2009).
In conclusion, how we appear online is dependant on the information which we make available from which people may form an opinion and how they interpret it. No two people are identical and unlike in society we can easily create multiple identities for ourselves and this is illustrated more clearly in the infographic below.
Inform created using Piktochart
Other sources used:
Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? By Aleks Krotoski
To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society