On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog?!

‘Your online identity is the sum or your characteristics and interactions’ (Internet Society) with different websites. The adage ‘on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog’ created by Peter Steiner referred to a time when our online identity could remain separate from our real lives, however, now many people are pushing for authentic, transparent online identities which truly reflect the user. At the same time, others have multiple identities across varying social networks for different purposes.

So what are the arguments for and against having more than one online identity?

The creator of 4Chan, Christopher Poole argues that ‘individuals are multifaceted – they have to have multiple identities’ (2012), which is reflected in the way that 4Chan is characterized by anonymous users and lack of archive. Others like Martin Clear stress that we ‘have [always] maintained multiple identities and separate circles of acquaintances’ (2014) and states that not all our acquaintances are interested in the same content we share and generate over different platforms. According to him, this is why we set up different accounts portraying different identities, to tailor them for our varied target audiences. Others believe that in order to avoid controversies à la Justine Sacco, we should have many identities or: ‘one for work, another for schools, another for home, another for friends’ (Jarvis 2011).

I was interested to read that ‘as a marketing tool, in order to reach the most valued niche audiences possible, fragmenting your interests into separate social media accounts seems worthwhile’(Casserly 2011), which reflects my personal use of Twitter to interact with potential employers and market myself.

However…

many disagree with multiple online identities, principally the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg who said that ‘having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.’ (2011) Unlike those who see multiple identities for friends/family/work as essential, he predicts that ‘having a different image’(2011) of yourself for different audiences is short-lived.

Nowadays many people only want ‘online interactions with authentic identities’ (Krotoski 2012) which has seen many businesses, figures in the Communications Industry and celebrities construct single, transparent identities which show a much more human side to themselves, making themselves therefore more appealing.

Having multiple online identities can be dangerous as it leads to anonymity which can in turn, give rise to cyber bullying in the guise of ‘anonymous trolls…attack[ing] people online,’(Jarvis) as users deem themselves to be safe from punishment.

Personally, I am of the same opinion as Martin Clear and I have multiple online identities which I tailor to the desired audience – the content I share on Facebook (aimed at my friends and family) is different to that on LinkedIn for example. However, I firmly believe that regardless of whether one has single or multiple online identities, it is essential to keep in mind exactly why you are using the internet and who the content you generate is aimed at: one always should keep things professional, even in a personal domain…

Sources

Casserly, Meghan. 2011, Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me, Forbed, Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/01/26/multiple-personalities-and-social-media-the-many-faces-of-me/ %5BAccessed 24/10/2014]

Clear,Martin. 2014, Why should I reveal my ‘real identity’ online? Anonymity isn’t so terrible, The Guardian, Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/15/reveal-real-identity-online-anonymity [Accessed 24/10/2014]

Helft, Miguel. 2011. Facebook, Foe of Anonymity is forced to explain a secret, The New York Times, Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/technology/14facebook.html?_r=0 %5BAccessed 24/10/2014]

Jarvis,Jeff. 2011, One identity or more?, Buzz Machine, Available at: http://buzzmachine.com/2011/03/08/one-identity-or-more/ [Accessed 24/10/2014]

Krotoski, Aleks. 2012, Online Identity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian, Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity %5BAccessed 24/10/2014]

Withnall, Adam. 2013, PR executive Justine Sacco apologies after losing job over racist Aids ‘joke’ provoked #HasJustineLandedYet Twitter storm, The Independent, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/pr-executive-justine-sacco-apologises-after-losing-job-over-racist-aids-joke-provoked-hasjustinelandedyet-twitter-storm-9020809.html  [Accessed 24/10/2014]

Internet Society, ‘Online Identity Overview’. (Video). Available at: http://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview %5BAccessed 24/10/2014]

Steiner, Peter. 1993, On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog, The New Yorker, Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you’re_a_dog#mediaviewer/File:Internet_dog.jpg [Accessed 24/10/2014]

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8 thoughts on “On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog?!

  1. There are several interesting points to this, and I have made vaguely similar points myself in my blog. I think a potential and interesting point of departure is to examine quite how different each online identity of one is. In a broader context this could call into question how you view yourself but also, how different (and potentially detrimental) each identity really is. You make the point that you market yourself to different audiences, but there is another wider question as to why one needs to do this, some jobs for an example. Journalism often crosses the boundaries between the personal and the private; what if one’s personal passion is also the area they wish to work in? In several job applications I have seen, a video to submit is part of the entry requirements – physically it could prove difficult to allow only specific marketable parts of you. My personal view is one you mentioned, one identity makes you authentic.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment. The point you raise about certain jobs blurring the lines between personal and private identities is an interesting one and one which I had not thought of until you mentioned it.
      In terms of a video submission to apply for a job, I think you are absolutely right. It would be extremely difficult to isolate specific parts of your identity and personality in a video to suit a job. Ideally, you need to be as truthful as possible and show the employer ‘the real you’ so as to not ‘lack integrity’ and skew their opinion of you. However, this being said, in the same way that we tailor CVs for certain job, I am sure that everyone, instinctively would change their behaviour in an interview or video to show the behaviour that the employer is looking for.

      Like

  2. There are several interesting points to this, and I have made vaguely similar points myself in my blog. I think a potential and interesting point of departure is to examine quite how different each online identity of one is. In a broader context this could call into question how you view yourself but also, how different (and potentially detrimental) each identity really is. You make the point that you market yourself to different audiences, but there is another wider question as to why one needs to do this, some jobs for an example. Journalism often crosses the boundaries between the personal and the private; what if one’s personal passion is also the area they wish to work in? In several job applications I have seen, a video to submit is part of the entry requirements – physically it could prove difficult to allow only specific marketable parts of yourself to shine through. My personal view is one you mentioned, one identity makes you authentic.

    Like

  3. Hey Lucy,

    Very clear and concise, an enjoyable blog to read! I definitely agree with you on what you have to say about maintaining multiple domains, on a professional level.

    For employability purposes, it is so easy for companies to use social media to screen applicants. Do you think they should being this? Do you think its appropriate for employers to catch a glimpse of who you are, outside your cv or cover letter? Im on the fence with this personally. Too some extent, social platforms can really show off who you are, e.g. your views, your sociality etc I dont think CVs can really show much of the employers, other than qualifications and achievements they have obtained. Like you said in your conclusion, as long as you maintain responsible and professional profiles, it should be fine who looks at them.

    But then again, from a blog I recently read by Jacquelyn Smith, she said that social media can really affect you in your job search, because if youre not such an active user, it might portray a timid and quiet person. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case- you might just not like using technology as much!

    Freya 🙂

    If youre interested, this is the blog I was referring to :

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/04/16/how-social-media-can-help-or-hurt-your-job-search/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Freya,

      This is such an interesting point and one which I am equally on the fence about! Like you, I completely agree that it is good for employers to get a real feel for who you are and see the personality behind the qualifications and statements in a cover letter as this can set us apart from other people!

      However, the blog post you linked me to, by Jacquelyn Smith, really highlights the potentially negative impact that a presence on social media can have in a job search as you pointed out. It’s a scary thought that 37% of employers use social media to suss out candidates and that our levels of social media activity can provide a supposed insight into what we are like as individuals and how employable we are. I agree with your idea that a less active user may appear simply because they dislike technology or the fact that they have other things to do with their time!

      However, it was encouraging to see that whilst the blog states that employers are looking for ‘dirt’ on us, they are also looking for things which make us stand out and give us an advantage which is a big positive!

      I found a quote in this blog that I really liked and one which I think we should all apply to how we portray ourselves on social media: “If you choose to share content publicly on social media, make sure it’s working to your advantage,” and this is something I completely agree with. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a very active social media user and expressing your opinions, as long as you keep in mind who might see it, and make everything you share work in your favour!

      Lucy

      Like

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