Your online identity (ID) is a sum of your characteristics and interactions when you use the internet (Cameron, 2005). Shown on the graphic below from we are social, 50% of the world’s population uses the internet and 37% are active social media users. With the growing influence of social communities on our day to day lives (e.g. for business, banking and socialising) we’re experiencing an increasing need to manage our online ID.
The TED talk below by Ulrike Schultze explores the topic on how social media shapes our identities.
With a variety of different social communities available online we have begun to alter what we share within them, to match the audience’s interests. This has organically made us have more than one online ID. The graphic below is a reflection of my online ID in different online commuinties.
This article from ‘the guardian’ talks about whether authenticity or anonymity online is more important which leads us to discuss the arguments for and against having multiple online ID’s.
Andrew Lewman argues that the anonymity that comes with having multiple online ID’s gives us control to be creative, explore our identity and not tie topics we may research to our real name for perpetuity (Krotoski, 2017). I agree with Lewman, however I believe it’s becoming impossible to not tie our online activity to our online ID even if we have multiple. The Missguided advert on my Facebook homepage (figure 3) appeared directly after I browsed the Missguided website. Targeted advertising is a product of social websites enforcing the idea of having solely one online ID. How many times have you signed up to something with your Facebook account? Actions like these help companies to better track our digital footprints and know exactly where our interests lie.
Conversely, online anonymity may not always be a benefit. If you wish to use online communities to grow as a brand, having multiple online ID’s cancels out the power of brand continuity for business success. Remember that the more often customers see the same message or image, the more likely they’ll retain it (Walsall , 2013). This is why many famous online personas (e.g. Zoella – figure 4) link their varied online accounts together. Instead of having multiple accounts to stay anonymous, they value the power of having multiple accounts to raise brand awareness and grow their online presence in a wider scale by sharing the same content throughout.