Online Identity: Creating ME

Portfolio Part 1 ALC708 (1140 words)

For this post I decided to recycle the title I gave my first blog post for my Blogging and Online Communication Techniques class at Deakin University. I titled the original post Online Personas: Creating You. When I wrote it I was just beginning my journey of digital-discovery, and  I was emerging from a passive, disengaged and resistant participation in the online world. I have come a long way since then, from an unused Facebook account, to regular blog posts and an active Twitter account. I am moving towards a more active, creative, and engaged participation with the internet.

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Audience by Tara Hunt CC-BY-SA 2.0

The more I participate in the internet, the more I become aware of the online identity I am creating. It is important to be conscious and self-reflexive when constructing an online identity because of the public nature of the internet. “Online venues assume, invite, and depend on audiences, sometimes intimate, sometimes not.” (Smith & Watson, 2014, p. 74.) Just as we make decisions in our everyday lives about the appropriateness of our behaviors and appearance, we must also make decisions about how we present ourselves online. This is increasingly important as our online identity is now linked to our offline life. “What people do online now, and will be doing in the foreseeable future, is inherently tied to their offline selves. ” (Krotoski, 2012)

Over the last few weeks I have been defining the surface level of my online identity. This is the presentation of self that skims the top; that I am happy to present to all peoples and in all situations. It is exemplified in my about.me profile and the following infographic:

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By defining this layer of identity I have seen that there are three aspects to my online identity: my academic identity, my writing identity and my private identity. I have built up my academic identity with my LinkedIn account, by maintaining this blog, and through tweeting and re-tweeting relevant material under ALC203 and ALC708 hashtags.

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Authenticity vs Anonymity Tweet by @jscamilleri

I am about beginning to construct my online identity as a writer. I have been careful to think through how I want to do this and am now starting to create blog sites under pseudonymous names.

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Zombie by Mike Mozart CC-BY-2.0

My Online Identities categorised. 

The reason I have created so many online profiles is to keep content separate so I can target it to interested individuals. People interested in my academic writing may not be interested in a YA sci-fi romance with zombies and vampires. Perhaps they will be, who knows. But by writing under different names I am giving readers a warning to expect something different.

Although I have chosen some pseudonymous names, I am not aiming for anonymity as I intend to link all the blogs to each other and to my Twitter account. Some people do want anonymity on the internet by posting under pseudonyms. This allows them to freely explore and express the many facets of their identity without feeling embarrassment, or fearing being judged or ostracized.

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Hiding by Quinn Dombrowski CC-BY-SA 2.0

As Vronay (2014) notes “[i]t is not about being anonymous or even pretending to be someone else. It is about controlling which subsets or true facets of a person are relevant in different social contexts. This is fundamentally not deceptive but actually enables one to be authentic.”

Some argue that anonymity leads to dangerous internet behaviours, and can scare off others from using the internet. They want an ‘authentic internet’ in which internet users are identifiable in an offline capacity, and their online identities are all linked.

Critics of the ‘authentic internet’ do not believe that identifying someone offline leads to true authenticity, and that it actually causes people to hide their true interests. Also, as Vronay (2014) cautions, you have to be skeptical of who actually benefits from identifying internet users. It seems the true beneficiaries are advertising companies buying data off Google and Facebook so they can effectively target marketing.

 

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 Online Identities Tweet by @jscamilleri

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msn-logo by Daniel Filho CC-BY-2.0

I grew up with the ‘anonymous’ internet. Prolific trolling, seedy chat-rooms, and instant MSN messaging under ever-changing pseudonyms were how I viewed internet use. In 2006 a friend encouraged me to get a Facebook account so we could stay in touch when he was overseas. When I started using Facebook I had about thirty close friends in my contact list and we posted with reckless abandon, feeling insulated and private on the site.

I remember the first time a friend deleted a comment because they had work colleagues on their Facebook and felt the comment was inappropriate. Marshall, PD (2010) notes that “Something has changed in the era of social media” (p. 40) and that “these sites and the exchanges that develop on them [have become] extensions in the production of the self and are vital to the maintenance of one’s identity.” (p. 42.)

As the internet increasingly became a part of the public sphere in which users were playing with the production of self, I became further disengaged with it. I disliked the way people used social media to produce supposedly authentic digital versions of themselves.

Now in 2016, after ten years of refusing social media, I have decided to produce an online identity. But, why?

I commented in my first post, Online Personas: Creating YOU, that “as a writer in the 21st century I need to be able to canvas myself across various digital platforms, and create what Barbour and Marshall refer to as a ‘public self’ (2012.)”

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Buds by Scott Robinson, CC-BY-2.0

Earlier this year I spent a few hours internet stalking a new favourite author, Sarah J Maas. I realized how brilliantly she used the internet to connect to fans and promote her books. Discovering the potential for a writer on the internet helped me overcome my disillusionment with it. So what if people might judge me, if I can no longer be flippant with my internet use? I am so lucky to be alive in an era where creating, sharing, learning, and connecting is so easy.

I have begun to realise that the internet can never be truly authentic or truly anonymous, that to try and push it into one or the other is to limit the boundless potential of it. The internet has inevitably been pushed into the public sphere and so we must become masterful produsers of our online identities.

I have come a long way, from my awkward first tweet-

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First Tweet by @jscamilleri

-and I intend to continue defining, evaluating, and developing my online identity, just as I do with my offline identity.

The beloved internet of my youth may be gone (RIP MSN), replaced with something that is increasingly public and self-aware, but I feel a sense of renewed vigor to engage with it. Perhaps I need to be more aware of the comments I make or the things I post, perhaps there is a chance that a future employee might see something I have posted and think ‘no thanks’, perhaps I will feel embarrassed or exposed by my past digital self as my identity continues to evolve, mature and develop. But, considering the potential for creativity and connection, I say BRING IT ON!

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Shasta and Emilee by Jared CC-BY-2.0

 

Broader Online Engagement:

Over the course of the unit I have been active in contributing to the ALC203 and ALC708 unit hashtags through my Twitter profile @jscamilleri. I have re-tweeted articles of interest, commented on other student’s blogs, and shared my own original thoughts. I have also been contributing to the unit by writing blog posts in my WordPress account. To date I have written five blog posts in relation to unit material. I have created and shared on Twitter a Slideshare presentation and Piktochart infographic. I have also been editing and building my about.me and LinkedIn profiles.

 

References:

Barbour, K and Marshall, D 2012, ‘The academic online: constructing persona through the World Wide Web’, First Monday: Peer-reviewed Journal of the Internet, vol. 17, no. 9, 3 September, retrieved 18 July 2013, http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3969/3292#p3.

Krotoski, A 2012 ‘Online Identity: Is authenticity of anonymity more important?’, The Guardian, accessed from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity, retrieved 20/4/16.

Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48.

Smith, S, and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online SelfPresentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.

Vronay, D 2014 ‘The Online Identity Crisis’, WIRED, accessed from http://www.wired.com/insights/2014/11/the-online-identity-crisis/ , retrieved 20/4/16.

 

 

 

 

Get Gamified

 

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Gamification by Jurgen Appelo CC-BY-2.0

When I saw a week on gamification coming up I honestly thought it was just Adam’s attempt to throw in a week in which he could talk about his favourite games. I wasn’t judging, I mean if I was a unit chair I would sneak in as many weeks as I could on fantasy novels, so I was cool with it and a little interested to hear what he had to say about games. What I didn’t realise is that gamification, whilst related to games, is actually a completely different thing.

Kim, B (2015) explains that “gamification is not quite creating a game but transferring some of the positive characteristics of a game to something that is not a game.”

This can include the incorporation of points, levels, characters, unlocking content, or a whole host of game structures. It doesn’t really matter how you incorporate elements of the ‘game’ as long as it makes whatever you are doing more fun. Once I realised what gamification was I started to think about all the times I have gamified something without even realising what I was doing.

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Rubber Duckie by Sonny Abesamis CC-BY-2.0

A few years ago my partner and I, and three of our friends went to the coast for a weekend. We were thinking about what we wanted to do. There were all the obvious ones like go to the beach, eat ice-cream etc. But we decided to think out of the box and make it a bit more exciting. So we made a checklist. There were twenty things on the checklist, and they ranged from the bizarre (put a rubber ducky in an unusual spot) to fairly normal (eat some fudge.)

It totally transformed the day. Almost instantly we were in game mode, we had our back-packs on, cameras ready and check-list in hand, ready for the day of adventure. We stopped off in town and bought all the various items we needed and then set off to complete everything on the list. And we did, whilst having an immense amount of fun. For years after my partner and I would check if that rubber ducky was still wedged into the top of that cliff (it lasted a surprisingly long time.)

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Smartphones by Esther Vargas CC-BY-SA-2.0

Gamification has boomed over the last few years, mostly due to the increase of the ‘mobile web’ and social media (Kim, B 2015). The use of smart phones has enabled people to constantly interact with the internet and allowed for ‘game layers’ (Kim, B 2015) to be added onto everyday lives as the internet is no longer restricted to stationery use.

Businesses have been quick to adopt gamification as a way to market products, increase engagement with their brand and to capture customer loyalty (Kim, B 2015). In a marketplace that is becoming increasingly competitive due to the ease with which customers can access and compare a global range of brands and products, gamification provides that extra special something to draw customers in.

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Learning by CollegeDegrees360 CC-BY-SA-2.0

Although gamification has mostly been adapted to the internet platform, it can still be incorporated into your everyday life without the use of the internet. Last night I was talking to my brother on the phone. He was hassling me that I need to exercise more and I was hassling him that he needs to call mum more. These are both things we should do and want to do, but lack motivation for. So I suggested we gamify it through a friendly competition of points scoring.

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The Game by Artiom Gorgan CC-BY-2.0

Why not gamify something boring or mundane, something you struggle to do, or even something that is fun but could become ten times more fun through the simple application of a few game principles.

 

So go on, get gamified!

 

 

References:

Kim, B 2015, ‘The popularity of gamification in the mobile and social era’, Library Technology Reports, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 5-9.

Facing down Fear over Identity

Up until five weeks ago online identity was something I had never thought about. In fact, it was something I avoided forming. The only social media account I had was Facebook and I never posted anything. The only photos or posts connected to me were those that others put there. So why is it that I have chosen to not post online and to keep a minimal online presence?

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Regret by Jason Hickey, CC-BY-2.0

There is definitely an element of social anxiety about the way people will perceive me online. Sometimes I think about posting something and choose not to because I worry about how people might respond to it, or how it will reflect on me. Sometimes I post something and then regret it for the same reasons.

I use to post prolifically on anonymous websites as a teenager, and I felt comfortable doing so because of the pseudonymity of my identity. Unfortunately for me it seems that the internet is reaching a point where true anonymity is virtually impossible and even pseudonymity is becoming stamped out. Interestingly when I created my Twitter account and Word Press blog I chose to use my full name. For me using my full name was actually a form of anonymity because the only person who refers to me by my full name is my dad when he’s unhappy with me. And so its use gave me a (somewhat false) sense of anonymity.

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Peek-a-Boo (Flickr) by Kenneth Leung, CC-BY-2.0

Another weird thing about my budding online identity, and something that I have only just noticed, is that in nearly all my profile pics my face is obscured. In my Facebook account my profile picture is of the back of me and my boyfriend’s heads as we boogie on a dance floor, my Twitter account is a shadowed side profile of me reading, and even at the top of this blog is another pic of the back of my head. The only account that has a straight on head shot is my AboutMe profile, and it only seemed appropriate to do so considering the platform. It’s not that I’m trying to hide my identity from anyone, or my face. But there is something that makes me hold back from presenting my online identity with a big, smack-in-the-face, beaming, close-up, head-shot. If I’m being honest, I think the reason why is that I don’t want to appear vain.

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Shiny new camera! by Les Chatfield CC-BY-2.0

Speaking of which, we’ve been looking at selfies this week and I have been trying to cajole myself into getting into the spirit and taking a selfie and posting it to Twitter, but I honestly don’t know where to start. I haven’t taken a selfie since I was 16, and back then we did it with digital cameras- a radical technological invention at the time. I don’t own a phone at the moment, so I would have to take it with my fancy digital SLR and then find my connecting cables to upload it… It just sounds like too much effort. But I wonder if I’m letting myself give up too easily.

We have to be extremely conscious of our online identities, arguably more so than our real-life identities  because online identities have this semi-permanency. I say semi because without attention, and over time, things that happen on the internet seem to fade away into the ether, and I say permanency because they always have accessibility. Something posted to the internet is accessible to a vast audience and not just at the time of posting, but forever after. Even if something is deleted, it tends to leave a trace somewhere. This is quite daunting, and it definitely makes me think twice about anything I post.

So there is a fear of judgement, a fear of regret, a fear of vanity, and a fear of permanence. But there is something else, I think, something deeper and weirder that has stopped me from forming an online identity.

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Look at me! by Storem CC-BY-2.0

I’ve always perceived the internet as a pseudo-reality, a sort of make-believe. And although I’m down with that (trust me, I’m a fantasy nerd and hectic day-dreamer) there has always been this sense that maybe an online identity could consume me. Almost as if the more I consider it and form it, the more it reflects back on me and affects my real-life identity. Could what I project into the online world, which is a consciously constructed version of myself, end up affecting my deeper sense of self? And if so, is this something I should be scared of?

We all receive reflections of our identity, whether it is from friends and family, or from reading a book, or listening to music, or even just looking in a mirror. These things can change how we perceive ourselves, what we identify with, how we construct ourselves. Is getting reflections from online identity any different? Should I fear its consumption?

I’m starting to think well no, probably not. And that’s all for now.

Just for fun, here’s another shot of the back of my head… (I have hundreds of these.)

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Back of the Head shot, authored by J S Camilleri, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 4.0