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.

 

 

 

 

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