Is an online identity a real identity? Or is it completely different? and who is to say that our real identity is better than a made up one? It’s all a matter of choice. Online is a place where we can be free to be ourselves or if we prefer, take on other identities.
“Secret identity” by Lance Shields is licensed under CC BY 2.0
When deciding about what sort of identity I wanted to create online, I found David Gauntlett, (2007) to be particularly inspiring. In his book Creative Explorations, he analysed people’s creations of their identities through Lego and found that most people actually want an integrated personality. He refers to themes such as the ‘the will to coherence’ and the desire to assemble a ‘solid and unified view of self identity.’ (2007 p.195). This is inspiring because it reinforces the idea that identity can be integrated rather than split. He also makes the point that ‘all participants built their identity as one thing. Complex with many parts but each represented a whole.’ (2007 p.188)
On the other hand a variety of identities on many different sites could be useful for some people in certain contexts (Brown 2016), but this is something I wouldn’t be able to do at least at the moment. It is far too difficult to maintain and could prove to be confusing in the long run, I mean it’s hard enough trying to remember all the different passwords as it is.
So, if I want to keep things fairly connected, then I need to think about what sort of image I should portray. For me the choice was fairly obvious. Just be yourself! However this thought is a little daunting. The whole concept of ‘self’ is another story but for now, ‘be yourself’ could be considered the closest thing to the everyday self you usually are. So, be yourself, show it to the world and risk rejection! Ok, well here we go..
Photo by Jazz Kallychurn (2017) Photo by G Shardey (2017)
To be honest although there is fear involved, it is also liberating. Sure there may be people that laugh or put you down, but self-expression and connecting with others, is a far greater reward than hiding and doing nothing in this ever changing world of technology.
I changed my picture from a front-on view to more side-on. I felt like this was less confronting without altering who I was.
Thinking further on this I also found I could relate to what David Gauntlett calls the travellers journey. As opposed to the ‘dream seeker or ‘lonely traveller’ for example. I’d like to see the creation of my online identity as part of the journey of travelling through life experiencing new things. (2007 p.179)
How things have changed
So why is all this important at all? Well it’s the way the world is going. As William Mirren (2009) suggests, there is a need for media studies to transform itself to adequately reflect the current media environment. As the media is no longer controlled by the elite few, it is now open to anyone to take part and connect with others. So, instead of the news being edited by large media corporations who often see the world through a narrow lens, we have people from all walk of life, getting involved and taking part. This also creates more peer-to–peer communications. (2009 p.22)
Let the collective decide
The voice of the collective is now welcome more than ever. This is described by Levy (2015) as collective intelligence and can be seen in the rise of YouTube success stories and certain videos, blog posts and tweets going viral at any moment in time. It’s often unexpected and reflects the voice of the collective creating likes and followers for media that may not have been produced in the broadcast era.
So how do we get the collective to react to what we post? Part of the online identity is about coming to terms with the possibility of rejection and becoming active participants. We need to get our ideas and thoughts out to the world in the best way we can by posting, tweeting, using hashtags and retweeting.
One of the first steps taken in this online journey was to start tweeting.
Sometimes you get a response and sometimes you don’t. That’s the fun of it! The above tweet created a bit of a response and a mini discussion online which was quite a surprise. I later made a comment about the TV show Black Mirror.
As you can see I am using my full name. This was not the way my Twitter was initially set up, and it does feel a bit exposing, but I can also see the benefit in it. I decided to change my name from Colette.r to Colette Rhodes after the suggestion of my ALC708 unit chair, Adam Brown. A part of me was happy about this as I would prefer to be ‘myself’ online rather than hide behind another identity.
“Sunset” by Colette Rhodes (2017)
I decided to put a picture I had taken as my Twitter and WordPress background. Overall I have chosen night time scenes, purple/red colours for my backgrounds. I am not sure why I have chosen these colours. I think they make me feel relaxed and calm and that’s the mood I want to create. I want the themes and pictures to be similar so there is a ‘brand’ in place.
With that thought in mind I have created a small infograph to explain this process of creating an online identity.
Here is another perspective of the same process via a slideshow:
So creating an online identity is a process involving sharing yourself with the online world. It enables the creation of social connections and helps you to be more involved in the new era of media. This in turn can lead to a ‘sense of inner happiness and satisfaction in life.’ (Gauntlet 2007 p.196)
For that reason there is nothing to lose. Any identity you create may not be ‘professional’ at this point but the important thing is to get going, learn as you go and enjoy the journey.
My Broader Online Activity:
This includes an About.Me profile, LinkedIn Profile, Three additional blog posts in WordPress using two Creative Commons pictures. Four tweets, Responses to other blog posts and tweets.
Brown, A 2016 Identifying Our/selves Anonymity and Pseudonymity Online – Talking Digital Media Episode 9 on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_Em8gx17vk&feature=youtu.be
Gauntlett, D 2007 Creative Explorations , New approaches to identities and audiences, Routledge.
Gauntlett, D 2011, Media Studies 2.0, Theory.org.uk, January, retrieved March 2017 http://www.theory.org.uk/mediastudies2.htm.
Merrin, W 2009 ‘Media Studies 2.0: upgrading and open-sourcing the discipline’ Interactions: Studies in Communications and Culture Volume 1, No 1 pp 17-34.
Peters, M (2015) Interview with Pierre A Levy, French Philosopher of Collective Intelligence, Open Review of Educational Research, Vol 2 No 1 259-266. Routledge.