The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, once said “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” (2010), adding that he imagined it wouldn’t be long until the idea of having a “different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know” would cease to exist.
In spite of this, Liz Gannes argues that the internet provides “plenty of outlets for self-expression” (2011), meaning that the idea of having a single online identity becomes redundant once you use multiple social networks. Tumblr, for example, allows for more self-expression and Twitter can be used as a tool to share your experiences in a wider, more open way than Facebook. Because of this, users are playing the strengths of each social network to their advantage, often resulting in this concept of having more than one online identity.
Is having more than one identity when using the internet a good idea though? Ashley Brown, a PR consultant, admits that whilst she initially maintained both a professional and personal identity when using Twitter, she soon realised the benefit of giving her clients a glimpse into her life outside of work, in a “strategy to appear well-balanced” (2011). She believes that one of the repercussions of having multiple online personalities is that it will affect your life outside of the online world; once you start assigning different aspects of your life to different audiences, “it makes it extremely difficult to be a complete person offline”.
However, Costa and Torres argue that “digital identity is a serious matter in this day and age” (2011) and is a concept that centres on the idea of presentation and reputation. The way we act and behave is socially and culturally judged, meaning that we must consider the manner in which we manage our online identity as it can impact both our online and offline lives. The website LifeHacker.com lists a number of reasons why it’s good to keep your identities separate; it provides a layer of privacy, you have control over your professional appearance and means that you can keep your professional contacts from seeing “irrelevant details of your personal life” and vice versa (2012).
On a personal note, I think it is definitely important that we have multiple online identities. Whilst my personal Facebook account has high privacy settings, I have ensured that there is a “public” version of it, which whilst somewhat restricted, I believe is beneficial as prospective employers are able to see that I do have a social presence on the network given that Facebook is a vital tool in the line of work I wish to go into.
Casserly, Meghan. 2011. “Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me”. Available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/01/26/multiple-personalities-and-social-media-the-many-faces-of-me/ [Accessed 23/10/2014]
Costa, Cristina and Torres, Ricardo. 2011. “To be or not to be? The importance of digital identity in the networked society” by Cristina Costa and Ricardo Torres. Available at: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126 [Accessed 23/10/2014]
Cutler, Kim-Mai. 2010. “Why Mark Zuckerberg needs to come clean about his views on privacy”. Available at: http://venturebeat.com/2010/05/13/zuckerberg-privacy/ [Accessed 23/10/2014]
Gannes, Liz. 2011. “The Social Web’s Big New Theme for 2011: Multiple Identities for Everyone!” Available at: http://allthingsd.com/20110101/the-social-webs-big-new-theme-for-2011-multiple-identities-for-everyone/ [Accessed 23/10/2014]
Henry, Alan. 2012. “Should I Keep My Personal and Professional Identities Completely Separate Online?” http://lifehacker.com/5898370/should-i-keep-my-personal-and-professional-identities-completely-separate-online [Accessed 23/10/2014]