Who are you? An exploration into your online self

Executive director of Tor, Andrew Lewman, stated “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,” (Krotoski, 2018).

Digital identity is a serious matter in modern society, especially concerning around presentation and reputation, i.e. how we participate in shared spaces and how others think of us.

Source: A video created by myself using Powtoon

The different types of identities:

Source: Created by myself using Piktochart. Information from Future Learn
Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 14.34.59
Source: Created by myself using Canva

Private life vs professional.

It is increasingly important to make the distinction between professional and private identities. One of the participants in Costa and Torres’ (2011) study did not want their digital identity to be a snapshot of her real-life identity, making sure nobody could track her real identity back from the logins she was using when opening accounts.

Ultimately it depends on one’s career as to which is best suited. For individuals trying to build a brand and amass followers, a single identity is ideal. Travel or fitness bloggers would require such an identity, working in industries where digital technologies have blurred dichotomies of work and leisure. Typically, multiple identities would be used where one aims to keep their private life away from the scrutiny of their work.

Source: Created by myself using Piktochart. Information from (Jones and Swain, 2012)

Bowes (2013) found online identities to be an important tool of promotion, if done correctly. It is however important to remember that once posted, a comment is there for everybody to see. Justine Sacco faced huge backlash after sending out an offensive tweet, which became the Worldwide no.1 trend, instigating calls for her to be fired (Ronson, 2015).

A parallelism exists between online identities and digital differences. For those not digitally literate, managing multiple identities may be challenging and so put them at a disadvantage when applying for jobs.

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Admin (2014). How blogging can help you get a job. [online] The Employable. Available at: http://www.theemployable.com/index.php/2014/10/28/blogging-can-help-get-job/ [Accessed 22 Apr. 2018].

Bowes, P. (2013). Job Hunting: How to promote yourself online  BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-25217962/job-hunting-how-to-promote-yourself-online

Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Revista educacio, formacao & technologias, pp.47-53.

FutureLearn (2018) What is your network identity? – Learning in the Network Age. University of Southampton. Available at: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/4/steps/303357 [Accessed 22 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. (2018). 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 22 Apr. 2018].

Ronson, J. (2015). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html [Accessed 22 Apr. 2018].



9 thoughts on “Who are you? An exploration into your online self

  1. Hi Will,

    Great blog post – I really liked the video, and found the Costa/Torres article to be a really interesting read.

    I found it interesting that you opened with a quote about TOR – which is providing the basis for an internationally divisive question of where the balance between national security and privacy should be struck. I agree with the sentiment of the initial quote – TOR does have the potential to liberate its users and allow us to escape the modern-day surveillance state. One doesn’t need to look much further than Edward Snowden to see the inherent value of TOR

    However, do you not feel as a society we should also be weary of allowing *too much* anonymity? We have seen that TOR, and other online anonymity tools like encryption, have been utilised heavily by terrorists recently – creating a “double edged sword” here’s a link.. At what point do we consider that allowing everyone (good people, and bad) anonymous online usage poses too much of a threat to our nations security? Is having online internet activity linked to an identity (and not anonymous) not for the greater good?



    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comment. You make a great point and I do think its a very topical issue. I think it is hard to tell at what point there is too much of a risk, however in the current climate, a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach may be necessary with regards to anonymity online.



  2. Hi! I really enjoyed this blog. The topic of having a personal/professional blend in some types of work really got me thinking about the negatives and positives of this line of profession which crosses over online identities. Last year, James Charles, a famous beauty blogger and first male face of Covergirl magazine had to deal with backlash after fans had found racist tweets he had written in the past https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/a3743z/james-charles-first-male-face-of-covergirl-apologizes-for-racist-tweets. A similar thing has happened to another successful UK beauty blogger in the last two days, in which people have dug up 6-year-old tweets in which she has used a lot of unacceptable racist language and is currently facing backlash over twitter with people calling out brands to stop working with her https://babe.net/2018/04/24/holly-boon-beauty-blogger-racist-homophobe-tweets-51800. Do you think that this blur of personal and professional can be dangerous is certain circumstance as your professional life can be put in jeopardy due to the amount of attention it has (many people argue it is unfair to judge people on tweets made several years ago)? On the other hand, it could be argued that the transparency given due to the blurring of identities allows consumers to have an insightful view of who they chose to support and in cases like these, be able to make their own judgement on whether or not these people should still be supported in their industry.

    Let me know what you think!


    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. I think its a really interesting point you make and something I am seeing personally across my social media more often nowadays. Recently Maya Jama, a public figure with radio and TV shows was criticised for comments she made on her twitter years ago. I think its tricky and I’m actually undecided how I feel about it. People may have genuinely changed they views or now realise what they said years before was wrong, however that doesn’t detract from the fact they have said it in the past. There’s a part of me that does think it is perhaps unfair when people deliberately go and find such comments from 8 years ago on purpose just to try and ruin someones career, however I think people should also be able to know the belief system behind public figures they may idolise.

      Liked by 1 person

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