Should we keep our online identities private? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a completely open vs. private identity?
Julia Allison states that we should maintain many different identities dependent on the community we are in, for example school, work, friends and home (Jarvis, 2011). This is definitely something that I and I know many others can relate too. For example, the relationship I maintain at university is professional and the information I reveal is very different than what I share with other communities such as friends and family…So should we have multiple online identities?
Our online presence is more crucial than ever before. As a student, I’m constantly warned that potential employers will be trawling through anything they can find about me online. I’m therefore constantly weighing up whether it would be best to keep social media accounts private or not; is it best to hide my personal life from potential employers? And separating our identities into personal and professional is something that is increasingly debated. I personally only have one social media account for both professional and private although the primary use is personal but this is probably because I am not yet employed.
Private vs. Open
Most obviously, multiple identities online allow you to keep professional and personal accounts separate. If you wish to keep professional and personal separated for self-organisation and help in networking in those particular groups, I think that’s ok. However I argue, we are now so traceable online, if it is to detract attention from work/ potential employers, what really is the point in this because they are likely to be able to find lots of the information you think you’re hiding anyway. Plus surely if you’re breaking up your online identity by making some stuff private, why not just completely hide your identity? (Ludovico, 2014). Many also argue that having multiple online profiles and therefore hiding your personal life from employers is ‘creepy’ (see Morris and David, 2012) because people end up hiding behind a fake profile that portrays something that they are not. This diagram from Eler (2012) links to that, suggesting online we struggle with what we think we are, what people think we are and what people think we think we are- confusing but the diagram explains it better!
But it has to be noticed, however much you try to separate personal and professional to hide from employers and keep things anonymous no one can have a completely private identity online. You can definitely make your social presence more private by enabling privacy features but you can never be totally anonymous. I for one was surprised just how much information came up when I Googled my own name- some of which, like my old school newsletter, I didn’t know even existed! So, I question, are search engines such as Google exposing multiple online identities unknowingly for us (however much we try to keep them private)? What happens when you Google your own name?
Follow this link to a really good video summing up just how important digital identities are to students today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5QwOco3amY
Eler, A. (2012) “Introducing Your Hyperconnected Online- Offline Identity.”http://readwrite.com/2012/03/01/introducing_your_hyperconnected_online-offline_ide [Accessed February 2016]
Jarvis, J. (2011) “One Identity or more?” http://buzzmachine.com/2011/03/08/one-identity-or-more/ [Accessed February 2016]
Ludovico, A. (2014) “Multiple Identities in Social Networks.” http://www.springerin.at/dyn/heft_text.php?textid=2534&lang=en [Accessed February 2016]
Morris, J., and David, R . (2012) Identity Management: Multiple Presentations of Self in Facebook . . 3 (3), 4.
Featured image retrieved from: Ingram, M. (2011) “Its official: Google wants to own your own identity.”https://gigaom.com/2011/08/29/its-official-google-wants-to-own-your-online-identity/ [Accessed February 2016]